VOLUME 20, NUMBER 1 // SPRING 2019
LEADING THE WAY
DEAN'S MESSAGE The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM)
has been leading the way for veterinary medicine in Texas for 103 years. The CVM's founding dean, Dr. Mark Francis, made his mark by helping to eradicate Texas Cattle Fever when he developed a new way to inoculate cattle against the disease-causing pathogen found in ticks. He also influenced hundreds of budding veterinarians, and his legacy lives on in the college, the state, and the world. Today, our Large Animal Clinical Sciences (VLCS) Department faculty and clinicians in our Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) continue to lead in teaching the next generation of equine, food animal, and mixed animal veterinarians by continuously updating the curriculum, providing the latest technology, and hiring highly skilled and brilliantly educated faculty. In 2015, the CVM initiated a food animal track, providing a specialized career path for our veterinary students; our first 16 graduates from that track are now out in the workforce, serving Texas’ farmers and ranchers. Leading through education and research, our faculty and clinicians are working to solve the biggest problems that large animal owners are facing—from equine and cattle pneumonia to reproductive issues and devastating equine conditions that can cause life-threatening problems. They are using the latest technology, innovative discoveries, and advancements in telemedicine to solve animal health issues around the world. The new veterinary curriculum adopted by the CVM expands the hands-on opportunities students have in working with large animals, and through our outreach efforts, students gain experience working with herds thanks to our partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as well as through our Veterinary Emergency Team, which highlights the unique challenges large animal veterinarians face during disaster situations. Our commitment to serving Texas has led us to expand our veterinary operations to West Texas, where programs led by Dr. Dee Griffin and Dr. Dan Posey have worked to give our veterinary students more practical experience through externships and networking opportunities that encourage our future veterinarians to head west and fulfill the critical need for food animal veterinarians in that region of the state. The December 2018 groundbreaking of the new Veterinary Education, Research & Outreach (VERO) facility and the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab (TVMDL) in Canyon, Texas, will be key components to Texas A&M addressing the need for veterinarians in rural areas. Construction for the $22-million VERO facility and the $17.6-million TVMDL facility is scheduled to be completed in 2020. The partnership with West Texas A&M University in these endeavors will create synergies in advancing our overlapping education, research, and outreach missions in serving the youth and the livestock industries in the Texas Panhandle and High Plains through pre-veterinary education, summer internships and externships for veterinary students, and continuing education for professionals who are already practicing. In this edition of CVM Today, you can read about all of the exciting things that are happening in large animal medicine here at Texas A&M. The CVM is proud of all that we’ve accomplished and will continue to accomplish as we work to serve every Texan every day.
ELEANOR M. GREEN, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP
The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine
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CVM TODAY | SPRING 2019
Dean's Message............................................................2 CVM Information..........................................................4 A World of Good...........................................................6
ACADEMICS Welcoming Dr. Paul Morley..........................................8 Revitalizing Rural Veterinary Medicine.....................10 A Team United: Griffin and Posey.............................12 Texas-Sized Livestock Program Taking Shape..........14 STUDENTS From West Texas to College Station..........................16 Planning to Serve........................................................20 A Love for Horses.......................................................26 A 'Cooperative' Education..........................................28 In Their Own Words....................................................30 CURRICULUM Changing Our Thinking..............................................36 OUTREACH Educating in an Emergency.......................................40 Teaming Up for Texas.................................................44 RESEARCH Out with Antibiotics, In with Vaccines.......................48 Beefing Up Cattle........................................................52 A 'Long' Shot................................................................54 Holy Cow!....................................................................58 A Fertile Field..............................................................62 The Olive Branch........................................................68 As 'Fajt' Would Have It................................................74 Reproducing Results...................................................76 HOSPITAL From the Horse's Mouth............................................78 The Many Sides of Kevin Washburn..........................80 Urban Cowboy............................................................84 A Hardy Dose of Care.................................................90 A Vision of the Future.................................................92 DONORS Dedicated to Giving....................................................98 The Magic of Horses.................................................102 Rural Communities...................................................106 CE Schedule...............................................................107 Vol. 20, No. 1
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COLLEGE ADMINISTRATION THE CARL B. KING DEAN OF VETERINARY MEDICINE Dr. Eleanor M. Green
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Dr. Megan Palsa ’08 MANAGING EDITOR: Jennifer G. Gauntt CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Chantal Cough-Schulze Jenny Good Kasey Heath ’18 Briley Lambert ’18 Megan Myers Madeline Patton Callie Rainosek ’17 Jennie Ralston Vandana Suresh Ashli Villarreal ART DIRECTOR: Christopher A. Long GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: VeLisa W. Bayer Jennie L. Lamb PHOTOGRAPHERS: Chantal Cough-Schulze Tim Stephenson CORRESPONDENCE ADDRESS: CVM Today Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461 vetmed.tamu.edu CVM Today is published by the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences for alumni and friends. We welcome your suggestions, comments, and contributions to content. Contact us via email at email@example.com. A reader survey is available online at: tx.ag/cvmtodaysurvey. Permission is granted to use all or part of any article published in this magazine, provided no endorsement of a commercial product is stated or implied. Appropriate credit and a tear sheet are requested.
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EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN Dr. Kenita S. Rogers ’86 ASSOCIATE DEAN, PROFESSIONAL PROGRAMS Dr. Karen K. Cornell ASSOCIATE DEAN, RESEARCH & GRADUATE STUDIES Dr. Robert C. Burghardt ASSOCIATE DEAN, UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION Dr. Elizabeth Crouch ’91 ASSOCIATE DEAN, GLOBAL ONE HEALTH Dr. Gerald Parker Jr. ’77 ASSISTANT DEAN, RESEARCH & GRADUATE STUDIES Dr. Michael Criscitiello ASSISTANT DEAN, HOSPITAL OPERATIONS Mr. Bo Connell ASSISTANT DEAN, FINANCE Ms. Belinda Hale ’92 INTERIM DEPT. HEAD, VETERINARY INTEGRATIVE BIOSCIENCES Dr. C. Jane Welsh DEPT. HEAD, VETERINARY PATHOBIOLOGY Dr. Ramesh Vemulapalli DEPT. HEAD, VETERINARY PHYSIOLOGY & PHARMACOLOGY Dr. Larry J. Suva DEPT. HEAD, LARGE ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES Dr. Susan Eades DEPT. HEAD, SMALL ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES Dr. Jonathan Levine ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT FOR DEVELOPMENT (TEXAS A&M FOUNDATION) Ms. Chastity Carrigan ’16 CHIEF OF STAFF Ms. Misty Skaggs ’93 DIRECTOR, TEXAS INSTITUTE FOR PRECLINICAL STUDIES Dr. Egeman Tuzun EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR COMMUNICATIONS, MEDIA, & PUBLIC RELATIONS Dr. Megan Palsa ’08
COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES Texas A&M University | 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461 vetmed.tamu.edu DEANâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S OFFICE & ADMINISTRATION 979.845.5051 ADMISSIONS 979.845.5051 BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES PROGRAM 979.845.4941 DEVELOPMENT & ALUMNI RELATIONS 979.845.9043 CVM COMMUNICATIONS 979.845.1780 CONTINUING EDUCATION 979.845.9102 GRADUATE & RESEARCH STUDIES 979.845.5092 GLOBAL ONE HEALTH 979.845.8612 PUBLIC RELATIONS 979.862.4216 VETERINARY INTEGRATIVE BIOSCIENCES 979.845.2828 VETERINARY PATHOBIOLOGY 979.845.5941 VETERINARY PHYSIOLOGY & PHARMACOLOGY 979.845.7261 SMALL ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES 979.845.9053 LARGE ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES 979.845.9127 VETERINARY MEDICAL TEACHING HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATION 979.845.9026 SMALL ANIMAL HOSPITAL 979.845.2351 LARGE ANIMAL HOSPITAL 979.845.3541
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Story by DR. MEGAN PALSA AND MADELINE PATTON, WITH JENNY GOOD
AN ARTIST AND AN ANIMAL LOVER Jenny Good’s art is a representation of how she views the world—she says it is who she is and not just something she does. She uses pieces that would not necessarily go together to create “something that can be asymmetrical, but balanced at the same time,” she said. Because of her deep love of animals, Good said that she started playing with drawings, using old maps and old ephemera to add texture to her artwork. Her love of collage work really came alive when she started using photos of animals and old maps that are often indicative of where the animals live. One of her pieces (pictured on the front cover) is a cow from Bastrop County. She used old maps and land surveys of the State of Texas from the 1940s. She likes to pull in something more personal that connects her art to the subject she’s working on, or to the people or land, and personalize it that way. After looking at photos of the cow, she began to see the final product in her head. “The pieces kind of fell together while I was scanning images like old maps and old sky charts that they used for ship navigation,” she said. “I just start seeing the images of the animals in the shapes and colors within the maps. They just kind of come together. They piece themselves, and then I create.” Although her artwork has been a main focus in her life, Good also has loved animals since she was a young child and often found comfort in the presence of her animal friends. She has been around horses for as long as she can 6 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
remember. “Horses have been a part of my life since before I could walk. They've provided joy, adventure, solace, and hope. They represent every good thing in my life, as most of the animal kingdom does,” Good said.
Cover image, by Jenny Good
“Horses have been a part of my life since before I could walk. They've provided joy, adventure, solace, and hope. They represent every good thing in my life, as most of the animal kingdom does.” - JENNY GOOD
A HORSE FULL OF LOVE In 2007, as Good was struggling with various difficulties from her past, a couple from Brenham heard about her and wanted to help. They strongly believed in the power of the human-animal bond and decided to donate Indy, a 7-year old Medicine Hat paint horse, as a therapy horse for her. Good appreciated the gesture, as Indy helped her deal with her PTSD and childhood trauma. When the owners gave Indy to Good they told her that there’s nothing like a horse looking back at you with no judgment in their eyes—to accept you just as you are and where you are that moment in your life. “Indy is 17 years-old now and their words still ring true,” Good said. “I can’t imagine life without him.” For Good, Indy has always been much more than a pet. “He’s a gift. What makes Indy so special is that he's a survivor, too. He's also a clown and an instigator. He's a lovable rogue. His antics make him appear much younger than his 17 years,” she said. Before being placed with Good, Indy was in an accident that left him with a deep cut in his leg. He was brought to the Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital (LAH), and the couple from Brenham paid for his treatment and cared for him. Years later, Good brought him back to the LAH because of a severe infection that left his throat paralyzed. Her local veterinarians had done all they could to help him; Good was told that he may starve to death because his whole throat was paralyzed and he couldn't swallow. They told her to take Indy home and that his will to live would determine whether or not he would survive. Good returned home where Indy would have to fend for himself. “He’s voracious as far as never giving up. He had the will to live, but that wasn't good enough for me,” she said. “It was too much of a struggle and I wasn't OK with the prognosis that he'll either starve to death or he'll somehow make it through on his own. So, that's when I took him back to Texas A&M.” She was in awe as she drove up to the LAH.
Jenny Good with her horse, Indy
“I knew that this was a place we would get help. This place made the difference between ‘just getting by’ and a full recovery,” Good said. The veterinarians who worked with Indy assured Good that he would be in capable hands. The team included an equine endocrinologist who was his primary doctor. “They were so kind and reassuring to me that he was going to be safe, that people would be constantly checking on him, and I could feel OK leaving him,” she said. Because his illness caused his throat to be paralyzed, he had lost a great deal of weight. However, the life-saving work of the veterinary team at Texas A&M helped him gain weight and improved his quality of life. “To have a group that was concerned with improving his quality of life was so important. When I got him back home, I could see his old spark again,” Good said. “I knew that he was going to be OK. He just continued to put on weight. He got frisky again. And he’s been healthy ever since.” Good is grateful for the veterinarians at the LAH. “Indy is a gift to me that I rely on every day,” she says, “Texas A&M veterinarians protected that gift for me.” ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 7
DR. PAUL MORLEY The epidemiologist will bring more than 20 years of experience in infectious disease control to the CVM's new VERO Initiative in West Texas.
Story by MEGAN MYERS
Dr. Paul Morley will be joining the Texas A&M College
of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Education, Research, and Outreach (VERO) initiative at West Texas A&M University in early February 2019. His work will focus on research initiatives and epidemiology in intensive production systems. Morley was recruited by Dr. Dee Griffin, director of the West Texas A&M Texas Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC), and Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M. “I’ve known Dr. Green and Dr. Griffin for quite a while, as we travel in similar circles,” Morley said. “I’m a boardcertified internist in large animal medicine, just as Dr. Green is, and I’ve been working on epidemiology related to cattle production since I was a graduate student.” At the VERO Center, Morley will create a research program through collaborations with industry partners and scientists from Texas A&M entities such as West Texas A&M, the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) and the AgriLife Extension Service. He will work with students of all degree levels while continuing his current research projects and finding new ones to pursue. “I’m really looking forward to showing all levels of students how exciting research can be and how important 8 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
it is for the future of agriculture and the future of veterinary medicine,” Morley said. Morley grew up in a rural Nevada community in an area known for raising cattle. He attended Washington State University, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree in animal science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. “From Washington State, I went to the University of Saskatchewan and completed an internship in large animal internal medicine and a combined residency-Ph.D. program (focusing on the epidemiology of infectious diseases),” Morley said. Morley became interested in a research career after working in an internship as an undergraduate. He thanks his mentor, Dr. Hugh Townsend, for helping him find his calling. “He just looked at me and said, ‘Morley, you’re an epidemiologist and you’re a researcher, and you don’t even know it yet,” Morley recalled. For the past 20 years, Dr. Morley has worked as a professor at Colorado State University, specializing in epidemiology and the control of infectious diseases. “My wife and I are both very excited about moving to Canyon, Texas,” he said. “We like the idea that we’re moving to a smaller community.”
Dr. Paul Morley
Morley hopes that through West Texas A&M and the VERO initiative, more veterinary students will become interested in working in rural areas, especially those interested in intensive animal production. “I think that specialized knowledge of agribusiness and production medicine will enable graduates to live and work in more rural environments while promoting high social and economic standards of living,” he said. “The Panhandle is one of the true jewels in the world, in regard to opportunities for intensive animal production and all of the work and careers that go along with that.” ■
“I think that specialized knowledge of agribusiness and production medicine will enable graduates to live and work in more rural environments while promoting high social and economic standards of living.” - DR. PAUL MORLEY
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“With the successful funding of the USDA-NIFA grant, the CVM, along with WT, is taking another step forward in firmly establishing a CVM satellite in the Panhandle. The satellite will support training of veterinary students at every level of their education.” - DR. DEE GRIFFIN
Dr. Dee Griffin
RURAL VETERINARY MEDICINE Texas A&M Receives Funding for 'Texas Panhandle and Plains Rural Veterinary Practice Revitalization' Program
Story by DR. MEGAN PALSA
West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) and the Texas A&M Veterinary Education, Research & Outreach (VERO) Center received a four-year, $243,500 grant from
the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). Project director Dee Griffin, DVM, and co-director Dan Posey, DVM, both Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) faculty, relocated to WT to establish the partnership between the CVM and WT. 10 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
The grant funding will be used to support the development and initiation of seven veterinarycentered programs, including: 1) developing fourth-year veterinary student rural clinical training externships; 2) developing summer working internships for CVM veterinary students finishing their first or second years; 3) supporting CVM veterinary food animal student mentoring for all students interested in food animal practice; 4) supporting an annual rural veterinary
practice and livestock operations tour for selected third-year CVM veterinary students; 5) aggressively recruiting qualified students with rural backgrounds; 6) recruiting outstanding rural students from 4-H and FFA programs to consider a veterinary career; and 7) practicing sustainability workshops for Texas Panhandle & Plains (TPH&P) rural veterinarians, which will include training for mentoring veterinary students and improved community communication skills. Recognizing the need to revitalize veterinary service to animal agriculture in the TPH&P region’s rural communities, the CVM created the VERO partnership with WT in Canyon, Texas, hiring two seasoned food animal veterinarians and charging them with aggressively addressing the veterinary shortage issue in rural TPH&P. These two veterinarians - working with TPH&P veterinarians, students, high school teachers, and producer groups - have laid the groundwork to ensure program success. Rural TPH&P has significant, capturable veterinary opportunities. The organization and necessary collaborative partnerships are in place at WT and the VERO Center, to achieve the unique grant funding objectives and for several of the objectives to become self-sustaining. Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the CVM, said that the USDANIFA funding of this proposal will have a tremendous impact on the ability to grow our efforts and multiply the impact through regional livestock and veterinary groups, such as the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, the High Plains Veterinary Medical Association, and the Panhandle Livestock Professionals. “The revitalization of veterinary health care in the Texas Panhandle and High Plains regions has been on the agenda of West Texas citizens for some time,” Green said. “Their concern has matched our recognition of the need to further support veterinary health care in the beef epicenter of the nation and in surrounding rural communities in a way that has the potential to be a national model.” “The USDA-NIFA grant will make a tremendous impact on the CVM efforts to revitalize Texas Panhandle veterinary service,” said Walter V. Wendler, WT president. “Currently, the CVM is making a significant investment at West Texas A&M to better serve the veterinary needs of Texas Panhandle communities through veterinary student
training, veterinary research, and veterinary outreach. We believe that if we recruit and train veterinary students in the Panhandle, we have a better chance of getting them to return to build their practices and build their lives in our rural communities.” Griffin, who is also professor and director of the VERO, said, “With the successful funding of the USDA-NIFA grant, the CVM, along with WT, is taking another step forward in firmly establishing a CVM satellite in the Panhandle. The satellite will support training of veterinary students at every level of their education.” “Being awarded this grant for the next four years allows us to have a positive impact to assist in the rural practice revitalization,” said Posey, who is also professor and academic coordinator at WT. “We are very excited about our ability to continue to offer innovative training for veterinary students through this grant and to support a food animal mentoring program, aggressively recruit future veterinarians, and hold workshops on rural practice sustainability. This is an exciting time in the Texas Panhandle.” Collaborators on the grant include: Brandon Dominguez, DVM; Amanda Hartnack, DVM; Glennon Mays, DVM; Tanner Robinson, Ph.D.; Juan Romano, DVM, Ph.D.; Allen Roussel, DVM; Kevin Washburn, DVM; and Kevin Williams, Ph.D. ■
Dr. Dee Griffin
Professor and Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Dan Posey
Professor and Co-Director email@example.com
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A TEAM UNITED:
Griffin and Posey Working together to train students in West Texas
Story by DR. MEGAN PALSA
As the director of the Veterinary Education, Research, and Outreach (VERO) Center at West Texas A&M University (WT), Dr. Dee Griffin has many
Dr. Dee Griffin
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plans for spreading knowledge to veterinary students and making a positive impact on the veterinary community in West Texas. Recently, Griffin has designed and implemented numerous training workshops for WT students and the cattle caregivers of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) member feed yards, and the region’s dairy cattle caregivers. “These workshops will teach students ways to determine the health of cattle in a stockyard. A critical key in keeping cattle healthy and assessing cattle health is to keep them calm and every veterinarian is taught to identify signs of disease through the behavior of cattle,” Griffin said. “Because cattle are natural prey animals, they have become experts at hiding the fact that they are sick or injured, even from the people who want to help them,” Griffin said. “We spend a majority of the time in our training helping people understand how to assess cattle behavior, how cattle think, how they react to various situations, and how they interact with human beings.” The workshops are offered to WT and College of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) students, TCFA feed yard members, and local high school students
interested in agriculture. Griffin said he likes to work with students in 4-H and FFA to help them get into college and veterinary school, preferably at Texas A&M. Griffin has worked with Dr. Dan Posey, VERO academic coordinator and former Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) president, to bring experts to West Texas A&M. “We have trainings for beef/dairy cattle,” Griffin said. As a WT professor, Griffin works with Posey to teach animal welfare and feed lot management classes for WT and CVM students. Griffin also works with CVM students during the summers to help them gain practical experience working with animals. He works hard to ensure that these students will have access to qualified industry professionals and Texas Panhandle veterinarians from whom they can learn valuable information. “We don’t just leave the students on a feed yard to learn for themselves. We take care of them. Dr. Posey and I see them at least once a week, visit the places that they are working, and so forth,” Griffin said. “We were so excited here at WT to offer training for our students on the WT campus. It’s been an extraordinary opportunity for Dr. Griffin and me because we are able to share some of our large animal knowledge and expertise with our students,” said Posey. “The energy and excitement in the area of veterinary education here is beyond words. I would say that each day we look forward to working and learning together.” Funds for these summer students, and many of the workshops, are provided by Merck Animal Health, a pharmaceutical company that is an important supplier of animal health products for livestock producers. “Merck has been supporting veterinary medicine and agriculture for decades,” Griffin said. “They always step up. They have sponsored all of our summer students todate. They’ve paid every dorm room fee for every qualified student who attends. The program is hugely successful and this next year with Merck’s help, VERO will be able to double the number of CVM summer intern students. Additionally, Merck supports the VERO–WT partnership workshops, providing support for speakers, workshop materials, and lunches to the workshop participants.”
Dr. Dan Posey
Despite his many achievements, Griffin remains humble and thankful for every person and organization that has helped him in his efforts to teach veterinary students. “It’s a team sport up here. Our team sport is to support the success, growth, and development of the students and the citizens who work with West Texas A&M,” Griffin said. “It’s Merck, it’s TCFA, it's WT faculty. They’re the people who should get the accolades.” ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 13
ACADEMICS An early conceptual image of the Veterinary Education, Research & Outreach (VERO) facility
“The VERO facility will be the most cost-effective and innovative game-changer in support of rural veterinary medicine in the Texas Panhandle.” - DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN
Taking Shape Story by DR. MEGAN PALSA
The Texas A&M University System’s effort to build the
strongest livestock program in the nation moved threesteps forward in December as officials broke ground on two new facilities and announced the hiring of one of the top large animal veterinarians in the world at WT. Chancellor Sharp joined local elected officials to break ground on the new Veterinary Education, Research & Outreach (VERO) facility, as well as the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL). “The groundbreakings are the culmination of our $90 million investment in the future of large animal health in the Panhandle,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “This investment—and the buildings we are breaking ground on here today—ensure The Texas A&M University System continues to not only meet but exceed the needs of this region and the state in the future.” The VERO facility will serve as a learning space to supplement externship programs in rural Texas. The more than 22,000-square-foot facility, budgeted at $22 million, will be a regional veterinary teaching center that will facilitate collaborative, multidisciplinary research among 14 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
scientists from across the region. Dr. Paul Morley will serve as the director of research at the VERO facility, Sharp announced. “Dr. Morley is one of the best-respected large animal veterinarians in the world,” Sharp said. “His presence brings instant prestige to the VERO facility’s efforts.” A Nevada native, Morley is accustomed to raising cattle and earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from Washington State University. He specializes in epidemiology and has been a professor at Colorado State University for the past 20 years. “I'm really looking forward to showing all levels of students how exciting research can be and how important it is for the future of agriculture and the future of veterinary medicine,” Morley said. “The Panhandle is one of the true jewels in the world, in regard to opportunities for intensive animal production and all of the work and careers that go along with that.” Adjacent to the VERO facility, the TVMDL facility, budgeted at $17.6 million, will feature all of the latest technology to provide the best in diagnostic capabilities.
Dr. Walter Wendler, Chancellor John Sharp, Dr. Patrick J. Stover, Dr. Paul Morley, Dr. Charles Graham, Dr. Eleanor M. Green, Dr. Susan Eades, and Dr. Bruce Akey
The 11,233-square-foot building will house labs for bacteriology, pathology, serology, and virology, as well as spaces for receiving and processing, necropsy, and support. “These new state-of-the-art facilities create a highway of research activity from WT to Texas A&M that supports animal health in this region,” Dr. Walter Wendler, president of WT, said. “This partnership brings together the system’s universities to extend their reach and address Texas’ large animal veterinary needs.” The TVMDL building will be named the Charles W. Graham, DVM Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory after Dr. Graham, a Distinguished Alumnus and renowned equine veterinarian. Graham’s veterinary practice led to the establishment of Southwest Stallion Station, a horse-breeding business responsible for the nation’s most famous quarter horses. He is the only person to serve as president of both the Texas Quarter Horse Association and the Texas Thoroughbred Breeders Association. In addition to the equine industry, he is recognized as a successful cattleman and founder of Graham Land and Cattle
Company, specializing in Brahman-influenced cattle. Sharp said that the two new facilities under construction are an important part of The Texas A&M University System’s “Serving Every Texan Every Day” initiative to partner with four system schools—WT, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Tarleton State University, and Prairie View A&M University—to expand the veterinary medical education, research, undergraduate education, and outreach throughout the state. Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Services (CVM) established the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Complex at WT to address the shortage of rural and large animal veterinarians in Texas. “The VERO facility will be the most cost-effective and innovative game-changer in support of rural veterinary medicine in the Texas Panhandle,” said Dr. Eleanor M Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “With Dr. Morley on board at VERO, the exchange of knowledge on the information superhighway between WT and the CVM, for the benefit of Texas and the livestock industry, will accelerate.” ■
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From West Texas
TO COLLEGE STATION Story by BRILEY LAMBERT
HAYLEY MORGAN With a long-time passion for horses and a desire to study veterinary medicine, Hayley Morgan found herself right at home at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). After completing her bachelor’s degree in animal science from West Texas A&M University, Morgan found herself searching for a veterinary program that matched with her career goals and aspirations. When she looked into the program at Texas A&M, she felt the choice was simple. “I wanted to focus on equine and mixed animal medicine, and I knew that A&M had an outstanding Large Animal Hospital at which I could learn a lot,” said Morgan, a first-year veterinary student. “I have worked for a few veterinarians who graduated from A&M, and I always admired their knowledge and skills.” Another major influence in her decision, according to Morgan, was Dr. Dan Posey, academic coordinator for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) at West Texas A&M University, whose passion and love for Texas A&M radiated though his teaching. It was enough to make anyone believe his beloved school was a special place, Morgan said. Now an Aggie, Morgan has felt the spirit and seen firsthand just what Posey was talking about. “I have loved my time at Texas A&M so far,” she said. “The thing that I have enjoyed the most about A&M is the culture and how passionate all of the faculty and students are about this school and each other. I love how willing everyone is to help and lend a hand for one another.” Although the transition to a new school may seem overwhelming and scary for some, Morgan felt prepared and confident to begin her new journey. 16 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
“So far, my biggest challenge was actually finding a quick way to get from my parking lot to the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex during the first few weeks of school,” she joked. At West Texas A&M, Morgan encountered hands-on courses centered around food animals and their health and production, an area in which she was not previously knowledgeable. Morgan credits the rigorous curriculum and coursework there for her seemingly easy transition to the classes and workload at A&M. “West Texas helped prepare me for A&M by providing me with experiences that helped diversify my animal experience,” she said. “Growing up, I had a lot of experience with companion animals and horses, but not so much cattle and other food animals. The courses at West Texas really allowed me to be more successful in the food animal lectures and labs that I’ve had so far at A&M.” After graduating from veterinary school, Morgan plans to pursue a career in equine or mixed medicine. Eventually, she would like to work at a private or specialty practice. With the knowledge and experience she has gained from her time at West Texas A&M and Texas A&M University, Morgan feels confident she can conquer any and all challenges she may face along the way. ■
ASHLEE ADAMS A life-long dream of becoming a veterinarian is becoming a fast reality for Ashlee Adams, a first-year veterinary student at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Before making the move to Texas A&M University, Adams lived in the Amarillo area, where she first discovered her passion for animals.
“West Texas helped prepare me for A&M by providing me with experiences that helped diversify my animal experience.” - HAYLEY MORGAN
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“So far, I've used a lot of my class notes from West Texas to help me understand the concepts I am learning here, and I am able to apply what I'm learning now to the experiences I gained at West Texas.” - ASHLEE ADAMS
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After graduating from West Texas A&M in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in animal science, Adams worked as a head veterinary technician at a small animal clinic while applying for veterinary school. “Ultimately, I chose to come to Texas A&M because they have reached out to and worked with students at West Texas, and they are one of the best veterinary schools you can attend,” Adams said. “It also didn’t hurt that it was affordable and fairly close to home.” Adams also credits her mentors Dr. Dan Posey, academic coordinator for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) at West Texas A&M University, and Dr. Dee Griffin, TVMC director, for making the decision to come to Texas A&M an easy one. “I met Dr. Posey and Dr. Griffin while working on my master’s at West Texas A&M, and their enthusiasm for the field made me want to pursue being a veterinarian again,” Adams said. “I knew if the professors at Texas A&M were anything like them, I would get an amazing education and have a great time doing it.” Upon arriving at Texas A&M, the distance from College Station to the Panhandle did not seem too far. However, Adams admits that she experienced her fair share of homesickness in the beginning. “I’ve never been this far away from my family for an extended period of time,” she said. “Missing my family has
been the greatest challenge so far, but they are so supportive and keep me excited about this new experience.” Aside from a short spell of homesickness, Adams said her transition has been smooth and easy, and the education she received at West Texas has proven beneficial in her courses thus far. “The classes at West Texas were set up for us to learn and understand information that will be useful for the rest of our lives,” she said. “So far, I’ve used a lot of my class notes from West Texas to help me understand the concepts I am learning here, and I am able to apply what I’m learning now to the experiences I gained at West Texas.” As Adams continues through her first year of veterinary school, she said she is thankful for the tradition and culture that A&M offers its students and would not trade this experience for anything. “I really enjoy the team atmosphere that is created by the faculty and students here. We all want to succeed as a team,” she said. “I have been blessed to be elected our class president, and our officer team is a cohesive group of students who truly want the best for everyone.” After graduation, Adams plans to move back to the Panhandle to work with cattle at a feedlot and practice at a small animal clinic. With the education and experience acquired from both universities under her belt, Adams looks forward to giving back to West Texas in any way she can. ■
Dr. Dee Griffin and students touring in West Texas.
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VETERINARY STUDENTS ASPIRE TO PRACTICE IN RURAL COMMUNITIES Born and raised in Orange, Texas—a small town that runs along the Texas-Louisiana border—Luke Domas grew up on his family’s farm, surrounded by dogs, cats, chickens, horses, rabbits, goats, and a few cows. The desire to be near animals seemed almost innate for Domas, and for as long as he can remember, becoming a veterinarian has been the plan for his future. “I wanted to be a veterinarian before I could even say the word,” Domas joked. “My mom says that I would say I wanted to be an ‘animal doctor’ when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Those feelings stayed the same as I completed high school and entered college.” With three older siblings, who all attended Texas A&M University, Domas said the choice was a no-brainer when it came time to apply for college. “Shortly after my oldest sister started at Texas A&M, my entire closet turned maroon with Aggie T-shirts,” he said. “I loved visiting my siblings whenever I could, and I loved getting to attend Midnight Yell, football games, and several events on campus.” Along with his love for the university and its beloved traditions, Domas said he wanted to attend Texas A&M because of the outstanding reputation of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). In 2015, Domas received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and is currently in his fourth year of veterinary school. “I think the biggest enjoyment I have had while at Texas A&M is knowing that I received a topnotch education,” he said. “Although the long nights of studying were not the most pleasant,
it’s nice to look back at what I have accomplished while being here.” After graduation, Domas would like to get back to his small-town roots and eventually practice mixed animal medicine in a rural community. “Growing up in a small community, I have seen first-hand how important it is to have access to quality veterinary care,” Domas said. “There is a growing need for good clinicians in rural settings, and I hope to help bridge that gap. Although I love cats, dogs, and other family pets, my strong desire to care for large animals would not be as easily fulfilled in an urban setting.” As graduation grows nearer and his dreams become reality, Domas is thankful for the invaluable experiences and education he has received while at Texas A&M. “The additional opportunities provided through the school to travel to outlying locations and care for cattle, equine, and exotic animals during various rotations have given me real-world experiences in a rural setting. Coupled with the experience I gained here working in the hospitals, I feel I have a strong foundation to carry on once I graduate,” he said. “The academic training at A&M and the College of Veterinary Medicine has prepared me to handle a wide variety of cases that I may encounter in the future.” ■
Story by BRILEY LAMBERT AND MEGAN MYERS
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Taylor Williams, a second-year student in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), is excitedly awaiting the day she can begin working as a veterinarian in the Texas Panhandle region. Growing up in the Panhandle, Williams noticed a lack of rural veterinarians and decided to do her part in solving this issue by returning home after graduation to start her own mixed animal veterinary practice. “My plan is to serve the need for rural area veterinarians in the Panhandle by offering a variety of services for a variety of species,” she said. “Working in the Panhandle is an attractive option for me because without access to a large referral hospital in that area, I will have the opportunity to work on a variety of species and to be outside of my comfort zone in assisting animals that may otherwise not get veterinary care.” In addition to the variety of animal species she will care for, Williams is excited to go home. “I thoroughly enjoy the people in the Panhandle and the amount of passion they have for the livestock they raise,” she said. “It excites me to get to be a part of their livelihood and assist them in their production.” Williams grew up in Amarillo, where she gained experience in agriculture through FFA, 4-H, and programs sponsored by West Texas A&M (WT). She worked for a local veterinary practice and judged horses while attending WT for her undergraduate education. “Not only did attending WT allow me to save money, due to low tuition costs and close proximity to my home, but the agriculture department there was also a perfect fit for me,” Williams said. After graduating from WT, Williams had no doubt that Texas A&M University was where she would go to pursue her veterinary degree.
22 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
“Texas A&M was the only school I would consider because of the prestigious reputation it had and the fact that it was located in my home state,” Williams said. “Furthermore, Texas A&M offers the most reputable large animal program I am aware of, and I knew I could gain skills that I could take back to the Panhandle in the future.” Williams said one of her favorite things about Texas A&M is getting to work with faculty who are more than willing to teach by sharing their experiences. “In a short amount of time, I have gained an invaluable resource through connections at Texas A&M and lifelong mentors I will be able to keep in touch with even when I am back in the Panhandle,” she said. She also appreciates that the A&M veterinary program is helping her prepare for a career in working with large animals, which she will often see in the Panhandle. “The new curriculum contains a surprisingly large amount of large animal material,” she said. “I was not expecting to be given the opportunity to have hands-on large animal experience so early on in veterinary school.” Once she returns to the Panhandle, Williams plans to help WT pre-veterinary students by offering internships at her veterinary practice. She is excited to serve her community and invest in future veterinarians. ■
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24 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
The Aggie War Hymn is not a typical lullaby for babies, but it was for Trent Dozier. to move back to West Texas to practice large animal medicine. He and his wife, Blair, have been married for 10 years and are excited about becoming part of a community where they can raise their two daughters, 5-year-old Wimberley and newborn Waverley. “There are a lot of good, hard-working families in West Texas that continue to dedicate their lives to keeping agriculture and the western way of life alive,” Dozier said. “It would be a great privilege to work day in and day out with these salt-ofthe-earth people to ensure that the livestock and ranching industry continues to endure for generations to come.” ■
“I knew that I eventually wanted to apply to veterinary school, and A&M has one of the top veterinary schools in the world.” - TRENT DOZIER
“I was raised as an Aggie and I never really knew there were other options,” he laughed. Now a class of 2019 Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) student, Dozier is learning veterinary skills in order to one day help the hardworking ranchers of West Texas. Dozier grew up on his family’s farm helping his father, Dr. Warren Dozier, who is a mobile large animal veterinarian in Fisher County, Texas. “Growing up, I spent a lot of time working our cattle with my dad, as well as for other producers throughout the area,” Dozier said. After finishing high school in Trent, Texas, where his graduating class comprised only 13 people, Dozier earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science through courses taken at Cisco College, Blinn College, and finally, Texas A&M. “I knew that I eventually wanted to apply to veterinary school, and A&M has one of the top veterinary programs in the world,” Dozier said. After he graduates from the CVM, Dozier plans
Trent Dozier examining a horse.
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FOR HORSES Chelsea Burleson, the CVM's lead student ambassador, has been a horse woman all of her life.
Story by MEGAN MYERS
When Chelsea Burleson was 8 years old, she visited
Texas A&M University and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) for the first time and immediately knew that this was where she was meant be. Now a third-year veterinary student, Burleson works to give others that same experience as the leader of the CVM Ambassador program. “How surreal it was to be accepted at A&M and walk again through the Large Animal Hospital, but this time as an ambassador, representing an institution whose reputation has carried around the globe,” Burleson said. Since beginning her role as an ambassador in 2015, Burleson has personally led more than 100 tours of the college. She helped re-design the tour route to incorporate the new VBEC Complex and was promoted to lead ambassador in May 2017. “As the lead ambassador, I arrange visits for a variety of guests—prospective students, special interest organizations, and even college patrons,” she said. “I also train our incredible team of biomedical sciences and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students to effectively communicate with the range of individuals wishing to learn more about our college. “I’ve made substantial efforts to ensure that visitors come away with a better understanding of veterinary medicine and the CVM’s role in training veterinarians,” 26 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
Burleson said. “At the very core, I enjoy being a resource for others and am incredibly moved when visitors report that our tours have had a significant impact on them.” Despite having moved multiple times growing up, even living as far away as England, Burleson found that horses always remained a constant in her life.
“My mother and I are equestrians through-andthrough, and horses have defined a significant role in my life since my earliest memories,” Burleson said. Originally from California, Burleson began helping with her mother’s thoroughbred breeding operation at a very early age. She began riding lessons at 4 years old, competing in numerous jumping competitions. As a young child, she fell in love with a black pony named Timmy that she received on her sixth birthday. When the Burleson family moved to Texas in 1997, Timmy suffered health problems because of the change in climate. Burleson’s parents had to make the tough decision to send Timmy back to California, where he thrived again, teaching other children to ride. “It was probably the first heartbreak I’d ever experienced–that pony meant the world to me,” Burleson said. “The connection between an equestrian and her horse is quite different from that of the connection between a pet owner and their companion. Both are extremely significant, but there is a very special relationship between humans and animals that work together toward a common goal.” When her family moved to England in 2001, her passion for horses grew even further. She said the significance placed on horses by the English, including the royal family, helped strengthen her love for both horses and competition. She was even able to meet Princess Anne while involved with the Garth Hunt Pony Club. Burleson continued to compete in England, where she had to adapt to a European jumping style. “It was initially challenging to transition from the methodical cadence of American hunter classes to the European jumper style,” she said. “But I learned how to tackle complex courses and speed across rolling English terrain; the energy was thrilling, and the landscapes were enchanting.” Both she and her mother fell in love with the English equestrian culture during their time overseas, so much so that when the Burlesons returned to the United States in 2010 they brought with them their two competition geldings. Her mother was also inspired to renew her breeding operation, this time with warmblood prospects. After graduating from the CVM, Burleson plans to help advise her parents, who now own a horse ranch in Colorado, where the family breeds Holsteiner warmbloods with the intention of developing foals that will become international competitors.
Aside from that, with one year left of veterinary school, Burleson is still deciding what career path she will take after graduation. As an undergraduate studying animal behavior at Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Burleson developed a special interest in primatology while studying social behaviors of capuchins, squirrel monkeys, and hamadryas baboons and hopes to incorporate that passion into her career. “I’ve considered everything from private practice with companion animals and horses to epidemiology and laboratory animal medicine,” Burleson said. “I’m inspired by the diversity of this profession, the many avenues a veterinarian can take throughout her career. I can’t wait to see where I go next.” ■
“I'm inspired by the diversity of this profession the many avenues a veterinarian can take throughout her career. I can't wait to see where I go next.” - CHELSEA BURLESON
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CVM Ambassador Rebecca Gooder is building community relationships as she guides visitors around the college and interacts with customers at the local Producers Cooperative.
Story by MEGAN MYERS
Rebecca Gooder maintains a busy schedule as a third-
year veterinary student who works both as a Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Ambassador and a customer service representative at Producers Cooperative in Bryan, one of the largest local agricultural supply cooperatives in the nation. Producers Cooperative is a member-owned association in the Brazos Valley with about 10,000 members. Although Gooder is currently the only CVM student working in the supply division, the cooperative has a history of hiring Texas A&M students. According to Hope Bay Moriarty, a division manager at the cooperative’s Bryan location, A&M students make excellent employees. They use their jobs as opportunities to learn more about the agricultural industry and to strengthen their customer service skills and work habits. Moriarty mentioned that Gooder, in particular, demonstrates outstanding character and has built up a very positive reputation among customers and coworkers. “Rebecca is a superstar here,” Moriarty said. “She is always honest, kind, courteous, and very knowledgeable. We have many customers who will wait to have Rebecca check them out or help them because of their past experiences with her.” Since Gooder began working at Producers Cooperative in 2014, she has assisted and advised customers on their 28 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
agricultural needs. She says she has enjoyed getting to work with customers and learn more about the agricultural products she sells. “Being in a customer service-type job, I have the opportunity to interact with a lot of different people,” she said. “Having the ability to effectively communicate and build relationships has served me well at Producers and it certainly will as a veterinarian, as well.” Gooder has also used her job as an opportunity to expand upon the information she is learning in her veterinary classes.
Rebecca Gooder with a customer
“At school I’ve learned, for example, all about bovine respiratory disease. At work, I have the opportunity to familiarize myself with all of the various vaccines to prevent respiratory disease, as well as the antibiotics that treat respiratory disease,” Gooder said. Her job, she said, is a mutually beneficial relationship between herself and the customers. “As much as I enjoy sharing my knowledge with customers, I am able to learn just as much from them through the experiences they share with me,” she said. In addition to working at the cooperative, Gooder serves as a CVM Ambassador, leading tours of the college for prospective students and encouraging them to apply. “I took a tour of the veterinary school when I first moved to College Station and I remember being so appreciative of all the insight I gained from the ambassador leading the tour,” Gooder said. “I thought ‘Gosh, I want to be able to impact someone one day the way she impacted me.’” Raised in California, Gooder became interested in agriculture at a very early age. “I grew up with horses and always thought I would become an equine veterinarian,” Gooder said. “But through my high school participation in FFA, I fell in love with agriculture.” After high school, Gooder knew she wanted a career that could combine her interests in veterinary medicine and agriculture. “I started off my college career at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, as an agricultural communications major. But after enrolling in a general dairy husbandry course, I took a giant leap of faith and changed my major to dairy science, with a concentration in pre-veterinary studies,” she said. After graduating from the CVM, Gooder hopes to work for a dairy practice in the San Joaquin Valley of California doing dairy production medicine. She has gained experience in dairy medicine through many externships and internships, including at Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oregon, and Daisy Farms in Paris, Texas. She said one of her internships, at AgriVision Farm Management in Hartley, Texas, was what inspired her to move to Texas and pursue her veterinary degree. One of her best memories at the CVM was the opportunity to be a part of the grand opening of Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) in November 2016.
“As an ambassador and proud Texas A&M veterinary student, it was really exciting to be there that day and experience such a monumental moment for our school,” she said. With Producers Cooperative, her CVM Ambassador position, and her veterinary classes, Gooder has certainly acquired a variety of learning opportunities that will set her up to one day be a great veterinarian. “I can’t wait to see what amazing things Rebecca accomplishes after veterinary school,” Moriarty said. “She is the kind of person who makes a difference at whatever she is doing and wherever she is; she certainly has made a difference here at Producers Cooperative.” ■
“Having the ability to effectively communicate and build relationships has served me well at Producers Cooperative and it certainly will as a veterinarian, as well.” - REBECCA GOODER
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OWN WORDS Second-year and third-year veterinary students share their summer experiences learning about swine production, the dairy industry, and veterinary medicine in rural communities through the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Food Animal and Rural Practice Summer Internship Program.
MY SUMMER INTERNSHIP IN THE PANHANDLE I was raised in the small, rural community of George West, Texas. My passion for the field of veterinary medicine started early in life. I grew up around various species of animals and at a very young age I went with my father, who is an agricultural science teacher, to visit his students’ animal science projects. This was the beginning of my understanding that using scientific knowledge to treat animals, while still having compassion for pet owners, is what veterinary medicine is about. I graduated with my undergraduate degree from the animal science program at Texas A&M in December 2016. I chose Texas A&M because of its reputation as one of the 30 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
most respected schools for agriculture in the nation, not to mention both my parents, several aunts and uncles, and all my cousins graduated from here. My small-town background proved beneficial when I accepted the Food Animal and Rural Practice Summer Internship Program. My experience in this program, offered through the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) to second- and third-year veterinary students, started off in June; I spent the entire month at a feedlot in Happy, Texas, where I worked with a doctoring crew treating cattle, learned about the nutritional aspect of the feedlot by working in the mill, and spent time in the office seeing the managing side of things. In July, I spent two weeks at the Carson County Veterinary Clinic in Panhandle, Texas, where I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Joe Hillhouse, clinic owner and the director of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners’ (AABP) District 8. Finally, the last two weeks of July were spent at a clinic in Dimmitt, Texas, with Dr. Zach Smith. I chose to apply for the summer internship because I wanted to experience a side of veterinary medicine I had not yet seen. I believed the opportunity to work at a feedlot and see how these large-scale operations function would prove beneficial to my future in veterinary medicine. The month I spent at the feedlot was one of the most memorable months of my life. I learned so
much about food animal veterinary medicine, as well as nutrition and feedlot management. I was also very interested in seeing veterinary medicine in a rural community other than my own. I learned more than I could have imagined and the knowledge I gained, and things I experienced, are something I will never forget. Before this internship, I had never been to a feedlot, but during my time in the Panhandle, I was able to work in a large-scale operation in Happy, Texas. It was an amazing opportunity. I was able to learn so much, and I know for a fact that the experiences I had at the feedlot are going to benefit me throughout my veterinary career. Among my favorite things about my internship with Dr. Hillhouse were the sense of cohesiveness and the community values in Panhandle, which are similar to the community where I grew up. These community values were evident each time Dr. Hillhouse and I had lunch in town. During each meal at least three people from the community would approach us to tell Dr. Hillhouse something about their pet/animals, ask him a question about something going on in the town, or just stop to say hello. It wasn’t just the friendliness and kindness of the people that amazed me, but also how Dr. Hillhouse seemed to know every one of them on a personal level and how he was genuinely interested in everything they had to say. Coming from an agriculture background, I was not surprised to see all of the different aspects of the agricultural industry come together. I have been around the industry my entire life and have been able to see firsthand
the passion and technology that go into the industry. My ultimate career goal is, to after a few years of working under an experienced veterinarian, go back to the rural area I am from and open my own clinic. Bringing veterinary medicine to an area in great need of a veterinarian and becoming a positive influence in the community is something for which I am willing to work a lifetime. I know one of the major issues young veterinarians such as myself will be facing coming out of school is repaying the debt they accumulated. Finding a job in a rural practice that is going to be able to compensate young veterinarians to help us pay off our loans is also a huge issue. Utilizing the Veterinary Loan Repayment Program and its intended outcome of helping offset educational debt is going to be vital in addressing veterinary presence in underserved areas. I believe that the CVM’s coordinated efforts are a step in the right direction for rural Texas communities. Bringing students in from Texas A&M System schools in the hopes that they will return to these rural communities to practice, is one way to approach the need for rural veterinarians in Texas. Increasing the desire for young veterinarians to return to a rural community because of experiences they have gained in those communities, is just one step in a larger initiative. The Food Animal and Rural Practice Summer Internship Program is also one huge step in the right direction because it allows students who might not have any other opportunity to see how rural veterinary medicine practices operate. ■
MY SUMMER INTERNING IN RURAL COMMUNITIES
I grew up in Pearland, a large suburb of Houston. My family had a dog, but other than that I had very little exposure to animals; the only livestock I saw was at the Houston rodeo. Despite this, I have always had a passion for animals. Since I was 5 years old, I have said, “When I grow up, I am going to be a veterinarian,” as I played vet with my stuffed animals. I completed my undergraduate degree here at Texas A&M. When initially looking for colleges, I was not going to be an Aggie. Then my sister invited me to visit when she was in school and I fell in love. The opportunities that Texas A&M could provide me with and the community that surrounded the college was too good to pass up. It was SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 31
a natural transition, then, to go to veterinary school here. In undergrad, I studied animal science and dove into the world of agriculture head first. I took advantage of every opportunity to gain experience with livestock. I have maintained this mentality in veterinary school, leading me to choose the Food Animal and Rural Practice Summer Internship Program. This experience was well worth it. I gained more knowledge and learned more life lessons than I could have anywhere else. The internship opened more channels than I had expected. I had the pleasure of working in two different mixed animal rural veterinary clinics, with Drs. Joe and Carol Hillhouse, Dr. Heritage Hill, Dr. Zach Smith, and Dr. Mark Birkenfeld. These veterinarians were dedicated to teaching me veterinary skills and life lessons; they invested their time in my education, and that meant the world to me. They helped me develop technical and surgical skills, and they let me work through cases completely, from taking histories to making treatment decisions. Although I am exposed to these aspects in school, it was an amazing opportunity to put it all together and apply my knowledge. During this time, I also was able to visit a swine operation and a feedlot. I had not had any previous experience with either of these industries, and, now, I at least understand the general logistics of running feedlot and swine operations. In July, I spent most of my time at Deer Creek Calf Ranch, an experience that was completely new to me. Because it is a large calf ranch and heifer yard, there was always something to do. For example, I learned a ton about regulatory medicine. I helped test for tuberculosis, vaccinate against brucellosis, and fill out the associated paperwork and health papers. I spent hours learning how to palpate. I also spent a lot of time in necropsy and taking proper tissue samples for the lab. I put splints on contracted tendons and cast broken limbs, repaired lacerations, gave IV fluids, and many other things. I also did not have any dairy experience prior to this summer. In the dairies I visited, I learned about taking care of cows, milk quality, and the efficiency of the milking process. I helped one dairy set up a milk culture lab, discussing the use of chromo agar that changes color when there is growth of a particular bacteria. This new technique could help the dairy save thousands of dollars. I was also able to assist Dr. Brandon Trichler, a veterinarian working for Select Milk Producers, in assessing the 32 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
efficiency of the milking process. This was an amazing experience and opened my eyes to the vast variety of career options I have as a food animal veterinarian. Growing up in a city, you don’t always know or even recognize those around you. People mind their own business and continue on their way. The stereotype of “everybody knows everybody” in a rural community is true, but the best part about it is that they genuinely care about those around them. In the Panhandle, I experienced a community that welcomed me with open arms and cared for me for the two months I was up there. One of the things that amazed me about working as a veterinarian in a rural community is that you don’t just care for people’s pets or livestock; as a veterinarian there, you are a vital part of the community and considered a leader within that community. By caring for people’s pets and livestock, you boost community morale and promote the economics within that town. This is just a small, but extremely vital, part of the job. While in the Panhandle, I had amazing opportunities to network with the veterinary community. Community is so important to them that they created two different groups that meet monthly. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with these veterinarians, and I hope that I maintain a connection as I continue in my career. Because of my experiences in the CVM and my summer internship, my path is the same, but my passion has gone from taking care of dogs and cats to caring for the people around me and around the world by promoting the health and welfare of food animals. I am not quite sure how I will fulfill the role I now plan to pursue as a food animal veterinarian or where I will be. That is part of the joy of veterinary medicine—there are so many facets and options. At this point, all I know is that I have a passion for people and cattle, and I want to do my part to help those around me. However, coming from a big city, the allure of a small, tight-knit community is great. Since my freshman year of college, I have known that I want to work in the food animal industry. I just had no idea how I was going to get there. This internship has helped me find my way into the industry and has given me the confidence to pursue this career, despite my background. Because of all of this, I believe that the coordinated efforts between Texas A&M’s CVM and West Texas A&M can be helpful to fulfill the state’s demand for rural enterprise sustainability. One of the major reasons why
this summer was so impactful to me was because I was immersed into veterinary medicine, community, and the culture of this rural area. This program would not have been as successful without all of those aspects. Living in a rural community is difficult. There are less creature comforts available, but the people make up for that. If this program is going to be successful, students have to be able to experience all aspects of working in a rural area. Students also need to be fully informed and aware of what this experience entails, the good and the bad. To continue to place more veterinarians in rural communities in Texas, students also need more support
MY INTERNSHIP IN THE DAIRY INDUSTRY I’m originally from Dallas. I’ve always loved animals, but I did not decide on a career in veterinary medicine until my junior year of college, when a veterinarian giving a guest lecture in my epidemiology seminar introduced me to the myriad ways veterinary work impacts human health-from ensuring food safety to identifying emerging infectious diseases. I earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology and a master’s degree in environmental science at Stanford but chose to come home to Texas for veterinary school. I chose Texas A&M because I wanted to go to a school with strong programs in One Health and large animal medicine-and because I’m a proud Texan!
and encouragement. Going to work in a rural community, I know that I am not going to make as much money as I could working in small animal medicine in a big city. That is just a fact; it is very intimidating to look at my student loans and then look at the median salary for rural veterinarians. So, beyond financial support, I need encouragement from our faculty and administration. While I am still working to collect the information I need to track food animal, I am confident that I will be successful because I have the support of amazing people like Drs. Glennon Mays and Dan Posey. A little encouragement can go a long way. ■
This summer I chose to take advantage of an opportunity to participate in the Food Animal and Rural Practice Summer Internship Program so I could gain experience in mixed/food animal medicine and build relationships with practitioners in another part of the state. I hope to go into mixed animal practice after graduating, and, thanks to this summer, I’m particularly interested in exploring opportunities in progressive dairy medicine. One of the most pleasantly surprising things I learned this summer is how diverse the opportunities are for veterinarians in dairy medicine. I spent the month of July working with fabulous dairy veterinarians, including Dr. Brandon Treichler with Select Milk Producers and others at Deer Creek Feeding, LLC, who have fairly unconventional roles in dairy medicine; Dr. Treichler works as a milk quality consultant for large dairies in Texas and across the country, and Deer Creek is a large heifer calf ranch that incorporates data analysis into the decisions practitioners make. Both helped me understand that there is so much that dairy veterinarians can offer to their clients in addition to traditional services. I can see now that our training as DVMs gives us the broad knowledge and critical-thinking skills that we can use to help improve the health and performance of animals in many unique ways. The mixed animal practitioners I shadowed also did an outstanding job of modeling community involvement, both as veterinarians and as citizens outside of their professional roles. For example, one weekend, on a moment’s notice, several practitioners from across the Panhandle abandoned their plans to rush and help at a dairy facility SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 33
that was hit by a tornado. This helped me realize the deep sense of community commitment on the part of the veterinarians I shadowed. Another example was through their leadership of local scout troops and volunteer agencies; they also supported local families at crisis centers. My fellow Texas A&M interns and I were even able to contribute to the Canyon community because of Dr. Dee Griffin’s work. He showed us how to use our veterinary backgrounds to identify a community’s needs—specifically, the safe handling of animals for law enforcement officers and how to make animal snares that we gave to the Canyon Police Department to help them prevent dangerous animal bites. I finished my summer internship knowing that I want to practice in an environment where my desire to help others is supported and encouraged, and I look forward to giving back to the community I serve when I graduate. I had also heard, before this internship, about some of the incredible advances in technology that are occurring in animal agriculture, but it was exciting to actually see the utilization of this technology. Before moving back home to Texas, I spent six years in Silicon Valley, and while I’m by no means a “techie,” I’m really excited about currently available and future technologies to improve animal welfare and product quality so that we can produce safer and more affordable food. While there will always be space for the development
of new ideas in animal agriculture, what really struck me this summer was how we need to take greater advantage of the technology we already have. For example, large amounts of data are being generated every day in dairy parlors, calf farms, etc., but this means little until we organize this data and ask the right questions to improve animal health and management practices. It’s “free” data because in-place systems are already collecting it, but we can do more to figure out what the data are telling us and how we should respond to what we find. Veterinarians should be particularly interested in taking full advantage of this data. I think this program can go a long way toward placing veterinarians in rural areas because it provides the introductions to practitioners and community members that “outsiders” like me would not be able to make on our own. From my own perspective and from talking with classmates, veterinary students are interested in practices that are economically sustainable in the long term, offer a high quality of medicine, and enable and encourage us to be contributors to and leaders in our communities, both within and outside of veterinary medicine. I saw all of those traits in the rural communities I was in this summer, and I’m optimistic that many veterinary students who have the opportunity to experience all that rural life and rural practice have to offer will be attracted to the lifestyle as well. ■
MY INTERNSHIP IN THE SWINE INDUSTRY
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Over the summer break I had the opportunity to work for Smithfield Hog Production in Laurinburg, North Carolina, through Texas A&M University’s Food Animal and Rural Practice Summer Internship Program. I began my journey at West Texas A&M University majoring in biochemistry and minoring in animal science. Upon graduation, I was thrilled to learn that I would be accepted to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) class of 2021. I chose to attend Texas A&M for two reasons—first, since I was a kid, I always dreamed of being an Aggie, and, second, and perhaps more importantly, I chose to come to College Station because of the interactions that I had as an undergraduate with Dr. Dan Posey. Dr. Posey started working at West Texas A&M my junior year as a liaison for a new initiative between the Texas A&M
CVM and West Texas A&M. Since then, he has become a tremendous mentor, and I am lucky to call him a friend. It was through his personality and actions that I was given a glimpse of the wonderful culture of the CVM community. In fact, without his assistance and Merck Animal Health’s sponsorship, I would not have secured my internship opportunity. As an aspiring future swine practitioner, the practical experience I gleaned and the lifelong friends I made were priceless. Leading up to the internship, several food animal veterinarians advised me of the importance of learning both the medical and the production sides of the swine business. Unfortunately, a common problem seen among new graduates entering into production medicine is that they have minimal understanding of the day-today activities necessary to run the facilities where they end up working. This internship allowed me to bridge that gap in my knowledge and become familiar with both production medicine and the day-to-day operations of the farm. One of the things that excited me about this internship was the opportunity to travel to a part of the country I had never experienced. During my time on the East Coast, I learned about the local culture and networked with professionals in the swine industry. I ended up discovering that the production community is a tightknit family. Because of this I was able to network professionally, as well as build personal relationships that I will have for the rest of my life. During my time working at the farms, I observed what the veterinarians did for the company. To my surprise, their responsibilities were much different than in a practice setting. There are many prevention and control measures that veterinarians are responsible for following,
and I enjoyed learning about them all. To say the least, the scale of the operation was unlike anything I had ever seen growing up in rural Texas. I was raised in a small farming community in the Texas Panhandle called Olton. My family grew crops and raised cattle. Starting at a young age, I participated in activities ranging from shooting sports to animal science through the 4-H and FFA. It was during this time I found myself drawn to caring for the livestock. I began raising pigs and cattle for show at the local, county, and state fairs. Soon after, I was introduced to veterinary medicine and I was hooked; I had found my calling. When it came time to start my college education, I decided to stay close to home and, most importantly, my pigs. Veterinary medicine is an exciting profession that spans from deep academic books to sweaty barns. It is this stark contrast that I love. And I believe that if you are going to be a food animal veterinarian, you have to learn by getting your hands dirty. This internship allowed me to do just that; it gave me a clear view of both the veterinary medicine and the production aspects of the swine industry. Once I graduate, I hope to be able to give back to the community that has given so much to me. I am incredibly grateful for the initiative between the Texas A&M CVM and West Texas A&M. I believe it is headed down the right path, and I am very proud to be a part of it. The placement of Drs. Posey and Dee Griffin at West Texas A&M was a tremendous asset to my peers and me. Their mentorship and guidance in helping us transition to the CVM has been priceless. I know that this foundation is only the beginning of a strong partnership between Texas A&M and the rural communities we serve. Gig’em Aggies! ■
“I think this program can go a long way toward placing veterinarians in rural areas because it provides the introductions to practitioners and community members that ‘outsiders’ like me would not be able to make on our own.” - KRISTEN WHITE
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OUR THINKING The implementation of the redesigned DVM curriculum is the culmination of years of data collection and offers students more hands-on experience through innovation.
Story by DR. MEGAN PALSA
“THE WORLD AS WE HAVE CREATED IT IS A PROCESS OF OUR THINKING. IT CANNOT BE CHANGED WITHOUT CHANGING OUR THINKING.” - ALBERT EINSTEIN
THE PLAN FOR CHANGE
DATA-DRIVEN DECISIONS INTO ACTION
As the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program completed its three-year program evaluation in 2017, Einstein’s quote became a realization for the many faculty members involved in the redesign of the DVM curriculum. One of the faculty leaders of this project, Dr. Kristin Chaney, is the director of Curriculum Development and Outcomes Assessment in the Professional Programs Office and clinical assistant professor in the Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) department of the CVM. Serving as an integral part of the curriculum redesign project since its inception in 2014, Chaney recognized the realities of this quote—that tangible changes would likely come more easily than changing the “thinking” about a new curricular framework for veterinary education in the CVM.
Large-scale evaluation of the DVM program and the subsequent redesign of the curricular framework required collection of data from stakeholders of the program. Chaney describes stakeholders as employers of our graduates, practitioners working alongside our graduates, recent alumni, current students, and CVM faculty. Stakeholder feedback was used to make data-driven decisions about change related to redesigning/ updating the veterinary curriculum. This data provided the foundation necessary to help the faculty, DVM curriculum committee, and administration recognize that change was not only important but also necessary for DVM students to continue post-graduate success in veterinary medicine. “Likely one of the biggest changes we appreciate in the new curriculum is that we now have a course called Professional and Clinical Skills (PCS),” Chaney said.
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Clockwise from left to right: Dr. Jennifer Schleining, Dr. Jordan Tayce, Dr. Kristin Chaney, Dr. Katie McCool
“This new course, present in every semester of the first three years, incorporates many of the recommendations received from stakeholder feedback and establishes a sequential and progressive opportunity for student learning.” In addition to one hour of lecture each week, there are three primary components of the PCS course. Students spend two hours in clinical skills training each week; this skills training begins with low-fidelity models and sequentially progresses to more intensive, highfidelity training models and, ultimately, to live animal experiences and procedures. During their two hours spent each week in professional skills training, students receive communication training with simulated clients/actors, as well as instruction in financial literacy, ethical decision-making, and personal/ professional wellness. Students also spend two hours a week in criticalthinking sessions that are designed to bring to life and
integrate foundation science content from concurrent and previous courses. Integrating content from courses within and across program years enables material to be reinforced in the critical-thinking sessions, thus enhancing learning as students work to assimilate information from various contexts. The intentional focus on integration during the criticalthinking sessions helps demonstrate applicability and relevance of foundation science content to veterinary medicine. “There were a lot of pieces of data that we pulled out of our stakeholder feedback to help create this course series,” Chaney said. “One of them, for example, was better training in ultrasonography,” she said. “When we asked practitioners and employers what could make our graduates more marketable, many mentioned improving ultrasound training; many reported having ultrasound machines in SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 37
their practice and said, ‘If we could hire a graduate who could come in and know how to turn the machine on and do a basic exam and look for fluid in a body cavity or to help collect urine from a bladder, that would be really helpful.’” As a result, improving opportunities to instruct ultrasonography in the DVM program was one of the data-driven decisions made in the new curricular framework. The college purchased 20 new ultrasound machines and with the assistance of the curriculum redesign planning team and faculty with expertise in ultrasonography, content related to basic ultrasonography was created. According to Chaney, students “start using ultrasound in their first semester and progress through the first year from scanning in a dorsal/ventral plane to scanning in a vertical plane in the second year. “Their first live animal ultrasound experience occurs as 2VM students practice scanning the distal limb of the horse in the fall of the second year of the curriculum,” she said. Preparing 2VM students for their first live-animal ultrasound experience included skills training in the laboratory setting (using both in-house and commercially made models) and included a reinforcement/review lecture of distal limb anatomy by foundation science faculty. “The new curriculum requires clinical faculty to work alongside foundational science faculty to create new student experiences, which are profoundly changing the way students think and the way they learn veterinary medicine,” Chaney said.
curriculum,” she continued. Overall, the DVM curriculum redesign project encouraged change through the creation of new courses that would be the first of their kind, as their development was based on decisions made by working groups of faculty from different areas of the CVM, but with common content interests and discipline knowledge. “Convening faculty working groups has improved transparency of our program. Bringing teaching faculty together to develop course outcomes, design assessments, and plan course content has improved knowledge and ownership of the new curriculum,” Chaney said. “Members of the curriculum review planning team helped working groups to ensure course alignment with the New Graduate Outcomes and provided historical information about content placement in previous, concurrent, and future courses. “All of this work supports course integration, horizontally and vertically, and serves to strengthen veterinary education at Texas A&M,” Chaney said. Faculty and students are beginning to recognize the inherent benefits of integration of content. Aligning content across each semester and between program years provides a structure for introducing, reinforcing, and demonstrating knowledge and skills. “Faculty in working groups are starting to recognize, we've taught X, Y, and Z here,” Chaney said. “Now we need to come back and add the next layer in this next semester.” Assisting faculty to align subject matter each semester supports student learning through demonstration of relevance and application of content.
CHANGE AND TRANSPARENCY
ENHANCING TEACHING AND LEARNING
“Through the curriculum redesign project we have improved transparency of the curriculum, meaning that faculty who have traditionally only taught in fourth year are now teaching in first, second, and third year, as well,” Chaney said. “In the opposite direction, faculty who have traditionally only taught in first year are now teaching along with students into the second and third year because the reinforcement of content is so important. “Through the curriculum update, we realized the importance of reinforcement and integration; from stakeholder feedback, we found out one of the biggest things we were missing were opportunities for reinforcement of skills and content throughout the
In 2014-2016, there were many things happening in the CVM. Not only was the curriculum redesign project entering the final phases, but the CVM was also completing the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC), the new preclinical teaching facility. “The new VBEC space affords us unending possibilities for student learning,” Chaney said. “Having the simulation lab and instructional venues for live animal skills labs with small animals, horses, and food animals has been a fabulous way for us to engage students in learning.” Another opportunity through curriculum redesign and development of new courses was the ability to ensure there were as many opportunities for instruction and
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learning of small animal/companion animal experiences as there are for equine and food animal species. “Students practice hands-on, live-animal physical exams on companion animals including both dogs and cats, rabbits, tortoises, and birds, as well as large animal species including horses, goats, and cows,” Chaney said. In the first semester of the veterinary program, students perform two live-animal laboratory periods on canine physical exam, two live-animal equine physical exam labs, and two food-animal physical exam lab sessions. The second semester builds on the first, and students move into specialty exams in which they learn dermatological, ophthalmological, otic, musculoskeletal examination, etc., using live animals. Animal handling and husbandry are important components of the new curriculum and all students practice catching a cow in the head gate and catching/haltering a horse from a paddock. Students are also tested in timed clinical examinations on all of these experiences. “In the new curriculum there is a greater emphasis on clinical teaching and problem-solving throughout the program in the first, second, and third year through courses like PCS and Integrated Animal Care,” Chaney said. “It is our hope that the sequential experiences in the new curriculum are going to send stronger, more confident students into clinical rotations as fourth-year students.” Successful program/curriculum redesign is challenging because of the inherent nature of change. “Change is hard, but at the end of the day, I think the more people who get involved in the curriculum, the more they will see the growth of these students and the beauty of the newly integrated program,” Chaney said. “Texas A&M has a fabulous program and has been graduating amazing veterinarians for over 100 years. I believe we are all challenged to look within and say, ‘How can we be better?’ Going from good to great is hard work and that's what we’re aspiring to do—to challenge students and faculty to get better every day.” ■
“The new curriculum requires clinical faculty to work alongside foundational science faculty to create new student experiences, which are profoundly changing the way students think and the way they learn veterinary medicine.”
NEW FACULTY LIAISONS WORK TO STRENGTHEN STUDENT LEARNING To support large animal education, the CVM hired Dr. Jennifer Schleining as a veterinary educator with a dual appointment in the Veterinary Large Animal Clinical Sciences (VLCS) department and the Professional Programs Office (PPO). From Iowa State University, Schleining is a large animal surgeon with a specialty in food animal surgery. While having only been here several months, she has already made a huge impact by strengthening the CVM’s ability to design pre-clinical strategies for teaching food animal medicine and surgery. The CVM also hired a second educator, Dr. Katie McCool, a small animal internal medicine specialist from North Carolina State University. McCool also has a dual appointment with the PPO and the Veterinary Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS) department. The veterinary educators will spend the majority of their time creating and instructing students in the pre-clinical program and will also lead clinical rotations in the fourth-year curriculum in their specialty fields.
Dr. Jennifer Schleining
Clinical Assistant Professor JSchleining@cvm.tamu.edu
Dr. Katie McCool
Clinical Assistant Professor KMcCool@cvm.tamu.edu
- DR. KRISTIN CHANEY
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The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team serves the state through response, but also through its outreach efforts, dedicating a portion of its resources to traveling across Texas to help communities develop their own disaster preparedness plans.
Story by CHANTAL COUGH-SCHULZE
Every month, the Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) gathers to learn and train. The team needs to be prepared—at any given moment they could deploy, which requires members to do anything from decontaminating animals near a nuclear facility to treating a horse injured in an overturned trailer. “We’re an all-hazards team. We train for the spectrum, from wildfires to chemical plant explosions to infectious diseases,” said Dr. Wesley T. Bissett, VET director and associate professor of emergency management. Created in 2009, the VET is the nation’s largest and most sophisticated veterinary medical response team, providing statewide veterinary support. Equipped with a 15-vehicle fleet, the almost 100-member team responds to disasters and trains veterinary students to do the same; members on the educational staff and students also work with communities in advance of disasters. 40 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
Everywhere the team goes, they encounter unique challenges. “What we deal with in College Station is very different than what the Panhandle deals with, or Orange, Texas, or the Rio Grande Valley,” Bissett said. In the Panhandle, the issues the VET assists with are affected by the sheer size of the animal population. Texas raises a lot of cattle—there are more cattle in Texas than there are people in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi combined—and a large percentage of the nation’s cattle are fed in the Texas Panhandle. When the cattle population is combined with the major swine operations in the Panhandle, the risks change. The sheer volume of animals, combined with such factors as global travel, provides the potential for infectious diseases to cause major problems, according to Bissett. “The cattle are coming from all over the country. When you’ve got thousands of animals in close proximity to
A veterinary technician discusses with VET director Dr. Wesley Bissett the treatment of a heifer in Jefferson County.
each other, the potential for the introduction of disease is pretty significant,” he said. In addition to infectious diseases, there are three other major disasters that communities and livestock face in the Panhandle: wildfires, tornadoes, and winter weather. In late 2015, Winter Storm Goliath descended on dairy farms throughout West Texas, killing 30,000 head of dairy cattle. Across Texas this past summer, there were more than 890 wildfires. “In the Panhandle, there are far fewer houses. Typically speaking, fewer houses means more animals in harm’s way. That’s a very unique challenge. A lightning strike or a downed power line—and then a wildfire starts,” Bissett said. “Wildfires move incredibly fast, and they’re incredibly destructive. We’ve been on a lot of different deployments, but wildfires are still one of the most challenging issues we face.” To help address challenges like those seen in the
Panhandle, the VET helps communities develop local emergency management plans and regional resources. In the communities with which the VET works, the VET brings together local firefighters, law enforcement, private veterinarians, and other animal professionals. “The community defines the problem they want us to solve—an animal-related problem revolving around a disaster—and we solve it jointly,” Bissett said. “We do our homework on the community, we understand what the numbers are, and we figure out how to use their resources to solve the problem.” Because of the scope of some disasters, the VET often has to coordinate with different organizations and both county and state governments from across Texas. “We have to understand that what may solve our problem may create a problem elsewhere. We have to come up with solutions that are mutually beneficial,” Bissett said. SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 41
Understanding the nuances of disaster response isn’t just beneficial for affected communities; it’s also a valuable learning experience for veterinary students. Fourth-year veterinary students are required to do a rotation with the VET in the nation’s only mandatory clinical educational experience in veterinary emergency response. During the rotation, five to seven students work with the VET each week, training and deploying with the VET wherever they go. “When we go to the Panhandle, we go and stay,” Bissett said. “We’ll work all week, come home on Friday, switch students, and drive back.” Wherever the VET goes, whether for developing plans or responding to a disaster, students are expected to participate. When the students work with the communities, they have to conduct themselves professionally, analyze the problems, and clearly communicate solutions. The situations that veterinary students learn about are as diverse as the VET’s deployments. One emergency plan the VET has worked on is with the Pantex Plant, a nuclear weapons facility in Carson County. More than
6,000 people live in Carson County, along with more than 20,000 cattle. “The operation at the Pantex Plant requires special plans for how to deal with the animal component if they have had an accident. It’s a fascinating problem set for our students to solve,” Bissett said. Even though the training focuses on emergency management, the work is relevant to all veterinary students. “Whether students are going into livestock management or becoming practice owners, the VET’s approaches apply,” Bissett said. “It’s all about problem solving and critical thinking.” The VET rotation also gives students the opportunity to get to know other regions of Texas, along with all of their unique environments, emergencies, and people. “We get our students out of College Station and into the far reaches of Texas. Our students get exposed to a broad range of environments and see what’s out there, meet the people, understand them, and understand what their problems are. We get to open students’ eyes to a lot of things.”
Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps veterinarian Dr. Laurie Shelton organizes supplies during Hurricane Harvey.
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Clinical assistant professor of equine community practice Dr. Leslie Easterwood searches for supplies in one of the VET’s field service trucks.
As the VET works to expand its impact, more students and communities will benefit from the team’s work in the future. Soon, the VET will be sending a field service vehicle to West Texas A&M University, where longtime VET partners Dr. Dan Posey and Dr. Dee Griffin will use it to support veterinary needs in the Panhandle; that unit was made possible by a donation from the Texas Veterinary Equine Association (TEVA). “The vehicle is a truck with a veterinary box on it and will be outfitted with our cache of pharmaceuticals for both large and small animals,” Bissett said. “We’ll manage the whole logistics side of it. They’ll use it for delivering veterinary medical care, for their recruiting trips, and for working on school animals.” The VET’s work, from their field service vehicle support to their disaster response and community collaboration, has far-reaching impacts. But the benefits aren’t just economic. Helping communities prepare for wildfires, tornadoes, and disease outbreaks like those seen in the Panhandle—and teaching a new generation of veterinary students to do the same— has important psychological impacts, as well.
Students deployed during Hurricane Harvey received hands-on experience that accentuated what they learned in the classroom.
“Whenever we help a community, they’re better able to serve their citizens and their animals,” Bissett said. “The reality is, and I don’t care what species you’re talking about, they all matter. A herd of cattle is not just a financial investment; it is an emotional investment, a historical investment. There is a relationship there that is much more than financial. It is a family’s, and a community’s, hope for the future.” ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 43
In one of the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s longest-running interagency agreements, fourth-year veterinary students provide care to animals raised in TDCJâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s prison units and, in turn, get hands-on experience in herd health management and population medicine.
Story & Photos by CHANTAL COUGH-SCHULZE
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Across Texas, there are 104 prison units. At 42 of
those units, there are inhabitants that some might not expect: multitudes of horses, cows, pigs, chickens, and dogs. The cows, pigs, and chickens are raised to help feed the prison population, and the horses and dogs are raised to help with security. The animals’ day-to-day care is handled by the offenders—but the animals still need regular medical care. For that, Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) steps in, partnering with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to provide veterinary care to TDCJ’s farm operations in one of the longest-term interagency agreements between state agencies. “Nobody knows exactly when or how the partnership started,” said Dr. Brandon Dominguez, a clinical associate professor in the CVM's Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (VLCS), who oversees the program for the CVM. “But with time, we’ve built this relationship where we trust TDCJ with what they do really well, which is security and raising animals, and they trust us with what we do really well, which is providing veterinary care and teaching veterinary students.” “It’s a win-win for both organizations,” agreed Bobby Lumpkin, TDCJ’s division director for manufacturing, agribusiness, and logistics. “If we didn’t have the partnership with Texas A&M, who would provide veterinary care for our cattle and livestock? It also benefits A&M, because we’re A&M’s biggest laboratory for the students.” Across that “laboratory,” there are more than 10,000 cattle, 1,400 horses, 19,000 swine, 1,200 dogs, and a quarter million chickens. The diversity and quantity of animals housed at the prison units gives veterinary students a unique opportunity to learn about herd health management and population medicine. SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 45
Every two weeks, five fourth-year veterinary students on the mixed animal, equine, or food animal tracks do a rotation working with TDCJ animals. The work starts early and takes students all over the state. The students, Dominguez, and two other supervising professors, Dr. Jennifer Fridley and Dr. Eric Kneese, visit 13 of the 42 locations regularly and visit the remaining locations quarterly or semiannually. “We usually start our day at about 6:30 in the morning and drive to whatever unit we’re working on that day,” Dominguez said. “There are units stretched from McAllen to Dalhart and from El Paso to just outside of Texarkana, so sometimes we have overnight trips.” When the CVM team arrives, they get to work, assisted by the TDCJ farm managers and trustees, the nonviolent, short-term offenders who provide the day-today animal care. “Depending on what is necessary each day, the work could range from doing pregnancy examinations on cows to deworming horses or doing surgery on dogs,” Dominguez said. “We might also float teeth in horses, collect blood from pigs or chickens for regulatory work, or examine animals that are sick or injured.” By providing veterinary care for the animals that TDCJ raises to support the offenders, veterinary students are also helping the Texas economy. “TDCJ’s agriculture program and the animals we raise are very important for the agency, as they help
provide food, security, and job skills for the offenders,” said Ron Hudson, TDCJ’s deputy division director for manufacturing, agribusiness, and logistics. “Texas A&M provides our animals with veterinary care, and students also provide assessments such as nutritional values (of the feed) the livestock consume. If TDCJ didn’t have a partnership for the veterinary service, it would be a challenge, logistically and economically, to assure the health of the animals over such a vast area.” But the partnership between TDCJ and the CVM provides so much more than just an economic benefit. It gives veterinary students the opportunity to apply their understanding of individual animal care at a population level. “In the TDCJ rotation, there are a lot of opportunities to see how larger operations manage their herds,” said Trent Dozier, a fourth-year veterinary student from Abilene who is focusing on large animal medicine. “It’s been really beneficial.” Working with a population of animals changes the equation of care. Students must consider the range of possible problems and assess how each problem applies to the entire herd, such as with pregnancy rates. “We try to piece together the full story to see what we need to do to give all those cows a better chance at becoming pregnant,” Dominguez said. Getting hands-on, herd-level experience also helps students gain confidence, as it did for Danielle Garnier, a
“The students do the procedures (and) make the decisions, and I step in and help when they need it.” - DR. BRANDON DOMINGUEZ
Dr. Brandon Dominguez and fourth-year veterinary student Victoria Mundo
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Dr. Jennifer Fridley and fourth-year veterinary student Danielle Garnier examine an abscess on the face of a young bull.
fourth-year veterinary student from Houston who would like to do her residency in small animal surgery. “I had not felt super comfortable doing some large animal things, like tubing horses in emergencies,” Garnier said. “But after this rotation, I feel 100 percent ready to do that should the need arise.” Dominguez, Lumpkin, and Hudson are encouraged by the success of the rotation and are looking forward to expanding the partnership. “Going forward, TDCJ is moving toward the holistic angle. We’ve discussed letting the students assess the cattle pre-birth and after-birth and conduct assessments on pastures for improvement,” Hudson said. “We continue to build on our relationship to make the partnership stronger by learning ways to offer A&M students experiences that will benefit them post-graduation and collaborating to utilize the available services A&M can offer TDCJ.” For Dominguez, the partnership has become a “fullcircle” experience; he did the TDCJ rotation himself when he was a veterinary student in the CVM. He joined the CVM as a faculty member in 2010 after completing his
master’s degree in epidemiology and a few years in general practice. “When I came through vet school I had a strong desire to go into mixed animal practice,” Dominguez said. “But in the back of my mind, I wanted to come back and teach. With this partnership, we have a unique arrangement where we can give the students a lot of free reign to make decisions and practice all the skills that we've taught them in the first three-plus years of vet school and let them really learn to become veterinarians in a rural, mixedanimal setting. The students do the procedures (and) make the decisions, and I step in and help when they need it.” For Victoria Mundo, a fourth-year veterinary student from Cypress who wants to work in small animal general practice, this supported independence has made all the difference. “We’re not just sitting back and watching a resident or intern do a procedure,” Mundo said. “Here, we get to float all of the teeth; we get to work with the pigs; we get to do the procedures. There have been a lot of early mornings, but it’s fantastic.” ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 47
CVM researchers help discover new strategy to protect foals from deadly infection.
Story by CALLIE RAINOSEK
Researchers at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) have helped
successfully develop a strategy to protect foals from developing a common and severe form of pneumonia by vaccinating pregnant mares weeks before giving birth. Pneumonia, which is potentially deadly in foals between 3 and 6 months of age, is commonly caused by the bacterium Rhodococcus equi. R. equi frequently infects the lungs of foals, causing symptoms such as fever and coughing. However, by the time symptoms are present, the infection is wellprogressed and more difficult to treat with antibiotics. Because of this, some veterinarians choose to treat foals without symptoms with antibiotics to reduce the risk of severe disease or even death. This practice, however, raises the risk of R. equi becoming antibiotic resistant. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why clinician-scientists such as Dr. Noah Cohen are developing strategies that include vaccines, immune system stimulants, and new types of antibacterial drugs to protect foals against R. equi and other bacterial infections without the use of antibiotics.
ADVANTAGEOUS ANTIBODIES Within the CVMâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Cohen is a professor in large animal internal 48 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
Dr. Noah Cohen (center) and staff
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Dr. Noah Cohen
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medicine and the associate department head for research and graduate studies. In collaboration with researchers at Harvard Medical School, Cohen was recently co-senior author on a study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens. The study described the first vaccine effective against R. equi in foals. The study, led by CVM graduate assistant Joana Rocha and Dr. Colette Cywes-Bentley, assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School, compared the susceptibility to pneumonia caused by R. equi between foals born to vaccinated mares and foals born to unvaccinated mares. Study results indicated that the vaccine protected foals from R. equi pneumonia and that this protection was mediated by antibodies transferred from mares to their foals via colostrum (the first form of milk produced by the mammary glands). “Vaccination of mares during late pregnancy is routinely practiced to protect foals,” Cohen explained. “Vaccination during pregnancy is necessary because unlike humans, horses lack the ability to transfer antibodies to their fetuses via the placenta. Consequently, foals rely on receiving antibodies through their mare’s colostrum during the first few days of life to provide them with immune protection.” At 4 weeks of age, researchers tested the resistance to R. equi in foals that were born to mares that had been vaccinated. Eleven of the 12 foals born to mares that had been vaccinated did not develop R. equi pneumonia. In a control group of seven mares that did not receive a vaccine against R. equi, six of the seven foals born to these mares developed pneumonia after exposure to R. equi at 4 weeks of age. All foals infected with R. equi pneumonia in this study recovered. These results indicate that the vaccine given to mares during pregnancy is an effective way to protect foals against R. equi pneumonia. “Our study is the first vaccine to have demonstrated efficacy to protect foals against pneumonia caused by R. equi,” Cohen said. “After many years of trying, this appears to be a breakthrough.” A strategy that emphasizes the prevention of R. equi pneumonia is especially significant considering that the bacterium is ubiquitous in the environment. “We find R. equi in different aspects of the environment, including soil and horse feces, so foals are exposed to R. equi from the moment they are born,” said Angela Bordin,
an assistant professor of immunology and infectious disease at the CVM. Bordin, who also took part in the research study, added, “It is not known why some foals develop pneumonia from exposure to R. equi and some do not. Vaccinating the mares, however, seems to protect most of the foals.”
A GLOBAL HEALTH PROBLEM Establishing a vaccine to protect foals against R. equi pneumonia would not only save foals’ lives, but also would help lower the risk of R. equi becoming antibiotic resistant. Cohen and his colleagues have already documented the emergence of resistance to the class of antibiotics most effective and commonly used to treat R. equi pneumonia in foals. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to reduce the use of antibiotics used to treat this disease. However, the threat of antibiotic-resistant R. equi is just one example of why it is important to reduce the general use of antimicrobials. Cohen said that “antimicrobial resistance is a global health problem in both human and veterinary medicine.” Cohen hopes this study will help shift the emphasis of treating R. equi pneumonia with antibiotics to a method that will help the patient’s immune response protect them against infection. Creating a vaccine to prevent the development of R. equi pneumonia “is of global importance,” Cohen said. One especially exciting aspect of the success of this vaccine is that it suggests the possibility of protecting foals against other bacterial infections. However, more research is needed to know for sure. Cohen noted that any future research will continue to keep the health and safety of the mare and foal a top priority. ■
Dr. Noah Cohen with graduate student, Susie Kahn
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CVM professor Tom Welsh's research focus on how Brahman cattle respond to stress will impact both the health of the animal and the health of the industry.
Story by ASHLI VILLARREAL
Many American beef producers raise Angusdominated herds, but as worldwide temperatures
increase, there will be an increased need for tropically adapted animals. Brahman cattle do well in hot, humid climates, but they are often criticized for their negative and aggressive reactions to humans. Crossbred cattle in the Gulf Coast states are part Brahman, but research about Brahman genetics and molecular measurements is limited, said Dr. Tom Welsh, a professor who holds a dual appointment in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biosciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) and the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences’ Department of Animal Science. “If climate change occurs as predicted, we will have a greater and greater dependence on tropically adapted livestock,” Welsh said. “Brahman cattle have important genes to contribute to adaptability to heat, humidity, and parasites. Brahman are important, they’re different, and they’re going to be even more important, at least as contributors to cross-breeding.” Most of the research from Midwest schools use dairy or temperate beef breeds, but these findings do not often translate to Brahman cattle, said Welsh. 52 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
To fill this gap, Welsh and Dr. Ronald Randel use the purebred Brahman herd at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center at Overton, Texas, to focus on how stress during pregnancy affects the health and productivity of Brahman offspring. With funding from Texas A&M’s One Health Initiative grant, Welsh was part of a larger team that looked at how transportation during pregnancy affects cows’ offspring. They found that the prenatally stressed calves were more excitable, reactive, and aggressive toward humans, and prenatally stressed male calves also had higher blood levels of cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to a stressful situation and is also often called the fight-orflight hormone. Increased production of cortisol is associated with decreased immunity in people and cattle. “Stress responsiveness is negative to productivity,” Welsh explained, “and prenatal stress supposedly leads to altered behavior, more active adrenal systems, and more stress response. What we need to determine is if the cattle are more or less capable of mounting an immune response if they’ve been prenatally stressed.” Welsh co-authored a paper that used the same calves from the One Health Initiative grant. This project also found that cortisol and activity level were elevated in prenatally stressed calves, while also indicating that cells in prenatally stressed calves were less able to signal for help when fighting off infections. Welsh, Randel, Penny Riggs, and David Riley at Texas A&M AgriLife Research recently received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to focus on the use of blood cells as a surrogate measurement for determining how specific tissues or organs respond to stress. The implications of this research could mean that DNA from blood cells could be used to help predict future resistance to respiratory disease, according to Welsh. These samples could be taken from young animals, so a producer would not have to wait and raise a calf until maturity to see how it will respond to stress. Choosing which calves will be the most productive is an economical decision that every producer must make. Recently, Welsh applied for funding to investigate the effects of prenatal stress on telomere length. Telomeres on the ends of the chromosomes protect DNA when a cell divides. Telomere length decreases as aging increases, and stress seems to accelerate telomere shortening, Welsh said. Along with health impacts, Welsh’s research also has
“What we need to determine is if the cattle are more or less capable of mounting an immune response if they’ve been prenatally stressed.” - DR. TOM WELSH
economic impacts. Welsh aims to determine if telomere length can be used to predict the longevity of a productive animal in a herd. A cow needs to produce four to six calves before she begins to bring a profit to the producer. Cattle producers—specifically those in West Texas— receive cattle across the Gulf Coast, and these cattle often have some portion of Brahman to improve their adaptation to hot, humid climates. They are often transported multiple times before reaching their destination, and cattle from different producers are often mixed together and may be exposed to other animals harboring viral or bacterial pathogens. During transportation, cattle may have inadequate access to or dislike their new food or water, which may cause cattle to refuse to eat or drink, resulting in dehydration. The stress from multiple transportations coupled with stress from decreased food or water intake can decrease cattle’s ability to fight off infection, Welsh said. Determining how Brahman-cross cattle respond to stress and being able to predict their respiratory response to stress would allow West Texas cattle producers to receive healthier calves, Welsh explained. Receiving healthier calves would mean producers would be able to avoid giving cattle antimicrobials, and antimicrobial resistance in beef cattle is a public health concern. Being able to have markers for stress responsiveness would allow producers to select cattle that tolerate stress better. Animals that respond better to stress are more productive, so Welsh’s research could lead to cattle that are healthier, require fewer antibiotics, and have a greater production yield. Welsh did not grow up around cattle but was exposed to agriculture through 4-H and FFA while in school. He was exposed to the research process when he joined Dr. Bryan Johnson's lab at North Carolina State during his undergraduate career. The experience allowed him to see that science depends on curiosity. Not only does science require curiosity; it also should include collaboration, Welsh says. “Collaboration expands the impact of the research,
Dr. Tom Welsh
expands the depth with which one can investigate a question,” he said. The beef industry is a significant component of U.S. agriculture, supplying nutrient-dense food for domestic consumption and for export to international customers. About 45 percent of the nation’s beef cows, the primary source of the calves that enter the food chain via the Texas and Oklahoma feedlots, live in Oklahoma and Texas. To improve the health and feedlot performance of calves from the Gulf Coast and southeastern states, Welsh and Randel developed an interstate collaborative research team with CVM's Dr. Sara Lawhon; Drs. Scott Willard and Rhonda Vann, of Mississippi State University; and Drs. Nicole Burdick Sanchez and Jeff Carroll, of the USDA Agricultural Research Services in Lubbock, Texas. Through the team's research projects, undergraduate, graduate, and veterinary students from West Texas A&M, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Mississippi State have gained experience with interdisciplinary teams. ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 53
Through a variety of projects focusing on reproductive science‚ Dr. Charles Long works to expand horizons in large animal research in a way that will benefit animals‚ industry‚ and humans.
Story by VANDANA SURESH
Dr. Charles Long, a professor in the Department of
Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP) in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has dedicated his career to expanding the scope of reproductive science research at Texas A&M University. Since starting his own research group 15 years ago, he has worked on a variety of projects to satisfy his intellectual curiosity, tackling diverse topics that range from developing assisted reproductive techniques for livestock to investigating early embryonic development. Long was always certain he wanted a career in animal sciences. Growing up on a small dairy farm in southern Missouri, he developed a close understanding of animal agriculture at a young age. “Dairy farming, cattle operations, pig operations, I worked on all of those things,” he said. Hence, when it came time to pick a major for his undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri, he was quick to choose animal sciences. During his undergraduate years, courses on 54 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
reproductive biology and genetics piqued Long’s interest. To explore his newfound interest further, he applied for a work-study position in a research laboratory that was studying the genetics of reproduction. This research experience made a lasting impression on Long. “The whole idea of experimental design and doing experiments that no one else had done—that was pretty fascinating to me,” he said. Although Long greatly enjoyed research, the decision to pursue it at the graduate level was made on his behalf. “I was in the lab and my adviser comes in and says, ‘I signed you up for grad school today. You’ve got to take your GRE and some other things, but you will start graduate school as soon as you are done with your undergrad,’” he said. For his master’s project, Long studied the genetic mechanisms that control uterine size in mice. He also picked up a new experimental technique following graduate school—cloning.
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“I was really excited about the potential of cloning,” he said. “My background in genetics allowed me to see the potential of using clones and assisted reproductive technologies to improve livestock, particularly cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs.” Shortly after obtaining a master’s degree, he joined Granada BioSciences, a cattle-cloning company. During his time at the company, Long became interested in the biological underpinnings of cloned animals, particularly the environmental factors that affect their embryonic development. However, he found it difficult to pursue these questions in industry. Thus, he decided to go back to academia. For his doctoral project, at the Unversity of MassachusettsAmherst, he investigated the differences in the development of embryos produced from cloning versus normal fertilization. After his Ph.D., Long spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow at the United States Department of Agriculture. Then, after spending another six years in industry, Long decided to leave it for good and join a research-driven academic institution. “I wanted a position where I could direct my own research program,” he said.
HORSING AROUND Since joining the Reproductive Science Laboratory at Texas A&M in 2004, Long has worked alongside students and collaborators on a number of research projects.
Currently, two of his projects are funded by the Link Equine Research Endowment. In one project, led by graduate student Carlos Pinzon, his team is using genetic and cloning technology to prevent a disease called glycogen branching enzyme deficiency (GBED) in horses. GBED is an inherited genetic disorder. Newborn foals with GBED perish because they cannot properly store sugar in their bodies. To prevent GBED, Long’s group removes the faulty gene that causes GBED from a carrier stallion and replaces it with the correct version. The team then makes clones of these gene-corrected cells to ensure that stallions do not have GBED. “These stallions cannot transmit GBED to their foals because they do not have the genetic mutation anymore,” he explained. For the second equine project, Long’s graduate student Cassandra Skenandore is studying how well new antiinflammatory treatments relieve arthritis. Similar to humans, horses also suffer from diseases caused by excessive inflammation. “Currently, there are a lot of drugs on the market for treating human inflammatory disease, but there are limited options for horses,” she said. Long noted that the goal of this project is to develop equine-specific therapeutics. “We would like to be able to develop biotherapeutic molecules that are specific to horses,” he said. “And so, if the animal has arthritis or other inflammatory diseases, these molecules could be used to improve their quality of life.”
PUTTING THE ‘FOOD’ IN FOOD ANIMAL
Dr. Charles Long
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Long is also devoting his research prowess to solving serious problems within the cattle industry, as well as to projects that have translational implications. In one of those projects, funded by the Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Long, in collaboration with fellow VTPP professor Dr. Mark Westhusin, is using genetic technology to make cattle less susceptible to bovine respiratory diseases (BRD) or shipping fever. BRD is estimated to cost the cattle industry billions of dollars each year. To treat BRD, veterinarians often use antibiotics. However, most antibiotics have side effects. “When you use antibiotics, you not only kill the bacteria
Goats in bluebonnets
that is producing the toxin, but you also start affecting all of the animals’ microbiome, particularly the good bacteria that is keeping these animals healthy,” Long said. To minimize the use of antibiotics, Long’s group is making small genetic changes in the cattle genome so that these genetically engineered animals are less susceptible to the BRD-causing bacteria. While many of Long’s projects focus on improving health of large animals, he is also working on a project that has a direct impact in human medicine. He and his team have genetically engineered goats to produce proteins called antigens in their milk. In particular, these antigens can be used for developing vaccines against malaria. Long pointed out that purifying antigens from goat milk is a cost-effective method of producing malaria vaccines. Furthermore, he explained that with global temperatures on the rise, infectious diseases such as malaria have the potential to spread to countries that lie beyond the tropics, like the United States.
“It’s getting hotter in places where it wasn’t before,” he said. “That’s going to cause the pattern of disease outbreaks to change, as well. You just have to be prepared for that sort of thing.” Through his diverse research projects, Long has established enduring collaborations with researchers within Texas A&M University and at other institutions. He says he values these relationships tremendously. “I have had the good fortune of working in the reproductive sciences group from the day I started at Texas A&M University,” he said. “It has been incredibly rewarding to work with my colleagues Drs. (Michael) Golding, Westhusin, and (Duane) Kraemer.” As a research mentor, Long enjoys working with his students in developing their research ideas. His students look up to him as a source of inspiration and motivation. “One thing that Dr. Long always says is, ‘Never let the sun go down without making some kind of progress.’ The biggest lesson that he has tried to instill in me is to just do it,” Skenandore said. ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 57
Dr. Michael Criscitiello and student Kelly Head
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Comparative immunologist Michael Criscitiello and a team of researchers from across the country are using “special” cattle antibodies to make medical breakthroughs in the areas of HIV and, hopefully soon, triple-negative breast cancer.
Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT
“Cows do neat things,” said Michael Criscitiello,
an associate professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB), as he sat in his office one Friday afternoon. For the past six years, Criscitiello has been taking advantage of, arguably, one of the neatest things that cows can do. Using “special antibodies” that cows naturally produce, Criscitiello and a team of researchers (including at Scripps Research Institute) have made significant headway in HIV research by eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies to the virus that biomedical engineers in California and New York believe may hold a key for HIV vaccines, therapeutics, or other prevention tools. While that project has advanced into the human medicine realm, Criscitiello and another team, including master’s student Kelly Head, are now turning their attention to using these same antibodies in a way they hope might one day be used to create an immunological treatment for breast cancer. SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 59
HITTING THE BULLSEYE Both projects began by immunizing a cow. A comparative immunologist who has devoted his career to studying “weird” antibodies in vertebrates— including sharks and frogs—Criscitiello observed a remarkable phenomenon that appears in cattle antibodies. “About 15 percent of cow antibodies have this extra finger-like projection; we call it an extra domain of the protein that's not in our antibodies,” he said. These projections are called heavy chain complementaritydetermining region 3, or HCDR3 loops. While humans don't have the immunogenetic tools to make HCDR3 in our genome, HIV researchers found that 10 to 20 percent of people living with HIV do, indeed, naturally develop neutralizing antibody responses similar to HCDR3, but usually only after nearly two years of infection. The human forms of the projections have been shown in the laboratory to stop most HIV strains from infecting human cells and to protect animal models from infection, which occurs when the antibody projection binds to the gp120 antigen of the virus that it uses to attach to the host white blood cell. Using this research as a frame of reference, and noticing how cow antibodies have this much, much longer extension, Criscitiello and his team postulated that this HCDR3 loop could possibly bind to the virus more effectively. “In a nutshell, the cow can make an antibody that can reach a part of the virus that our antibodies normally can't,” Criscitiello said. In order to test the theory that these broadly neutralizing antibodies (which include the HCDR3 loop) could potentially serve as a pathway to produce an immunological therapy, or possibly even a vaccine, for HIV, researchers would need more of these broadly neutralizing antibodies and they would need them to be produced rapidly, at a scale suitable for widespread distribution. So, Criscitiello and a team at Texas A&M went to work, immunizing cows with a protein designed to mimic an HIV surface protein to see if the cow would produce an immunological response, creating antibodies with these HCDR3 loops. “What was exciting was that we found that the cows didn't just make a good antibody; they made lots of antibodies, and those antibodies bound not just some 60 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
HIV very well but they were broadly neutralizing all different forms of the virus from all over the world,” Criscitiello said. In addition, the cattle produced those antibodies a lot faster than the team had anticipated. “Usually, it takes six to eight months (to see an immunological response), because we give them boosters, the way you do with some vaccines,” Criscitiello said. “But we actually had really good antibodies in a couple months.” Since the team published their results, medical engineering companies have picked up the research, using DNA cloning that attempts to take the part of the cattle gene that produces the HCDR3 loops and put that piece of DNA into a human antibody-heavy chain. The result, he says, would likely be a therapy to serve as “first line of defense,” but the therapy would be an immunological therapy instead of a medical treatment. A lot of testing will go into the clinical intervention stage, but Criscitiello says the research is promising. "This is exciting for our lab, as our work is generally on more fundamental immunology questions and takes longer to be applied into therapeutic interventions," Criscitiello said.
TAKING THE BULL BY THE HORNS Following their success, Criscitiello and his team returned to their basic science approach of research, re-examining the cow’s immune system to delve deeper into the genetics behind their immunity. But because the team had been tinkering with other diseases in similar projects (including one on Ebola) before the HIV breakthrough, when Scripps Research collaborator Vaughn Smider shared with Criscitiello that the Scripps team was working on a project on breast cancer, they wondered if what had worked in their HIV study could potentially work with Smider’s project. “The HIV project excited us to try for more things and, in this case, it's kind of a personal story,” Criscitiello said. “Vaughn’s wife had died of this particular kind of breast cancer, triple-negative, and so looking for new avenues for immune-therapeutics for that disease was high on his priority list.” A particularly tricky form of cancer, triple-negative breast cancer derives its name from testing negative for three important receptors that are usually good handles for clinical intervention—estrogen, progesterone, and
Dr. Michael Criscitiello
HER2. About 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers that are diagnosed in the United States are found to be triplenegative. “This is a particularly bad diagnosis. If you're triplenegative, the prognosis is much worse, and if it's metastatic disease, the median survival is less than a year,” he said. “It's a bad subset of breast cancer.” While the HIV project received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this project is not yet funded, but this team plans to take the same approach as in the previous study—immunizing cattle with the triplenegative cancer cells in hopes that the cattle produce the same HCDR3 response. The team will also analyze the different proteins produced to see what happens. “Hopefully the cow’s immune system will go, ‘Oh, this is foreign. This is weird. Let's make some immune responses to these different proteins that we're seeing,’” Criscitiello said.
While the HIV response produced the right antigens within a couple of months, for this project, the team will have to wait and see. They’re hoping to see the results they’re looking for within a year. “Ours is a discovery science kind of approach, where we know the cow, we've proven that the cow can do some neat tricks with its antibodies, and we know that there are targets on triple-negative breast cancer that we haven't been able to get a good handle on so far,” he said. “So, we're going to let the cow immune system do its magic and then analyze the cells that are making those antibodies and try to pull out the ones that bind the triple negative breast cancer. “We know that some will bind; whether some will use their special HCDR3 loop to bind well enough to make an immune-therapeutic monoclonal antibody to treat at the cancer clinic, that'll be the question,” he said. ■
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“My next dream is to use assisted reproduction to help widen the gene pool of endangered species in the United States.” - DR. KATRIN HINRICHS
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Could discoveries made by CVM professor and Patsy Link Chair Katrin Hinrichs lead to healthier in vitro-produced human embryos?
Story by CALLIE RAINOSEK & DR. MEGAN PALSA
Horses have played a vital role in world history.
Until about a century ago, they were one of mankind’s main sources of transportation and communication. However, thanks to advancing technology, many horses have transitioned into companion animals or are specially trained to compete in events or perform specific tasks. Mankind’s relationship with horses has certainly changed over the years, and thanks to Dr. Katrin Hinrichs at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), our relationship with horses could change even more.
HORSING AROUND WITH ICSI A member of the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology, with a joint appointment in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Hinrichs is a professor and the Patsy Link Chair of Mare Reproductive Studies. She is recognized internationally for her research in equine reproductive physiology and oversees one of the few labs in the world capable of performing intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in the horse, a process that is now the standard in equine assisted reproduction. SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 63
ICSI is a more complex form of traditional in vitro fertilization and is the only process that can efficiently produce a fertilized equine embryo outside of a mare’s body. The process involves picking up a single sperm in a pipette, under a powerful microscope, and inserting the sperm into a mature oocyte—or unfertilized egg. Given the right conditions, this will produce a fertilized egg and an early embryo will develop. There are two ways to perform ICSI—the conventional method and a specialized method that involves piezoelectricity. In conventional ICSI, a pointed glass pipette is used to “roll” the sperm against the bottom of a manipulation dish to rupture its outer membrane, which aids in fertilization. The sperm is then injected through the zona, or the outer “shell” of the oocyte, and then through the oocyte’s membrane for fertilization. In “piezo” ICSI, the pipette is blunt, and the shaft of the pipette is encased in a small motor unit that transmits minute vibrations to the pipette, which allow the pipette to act like a drill. With piezo ICSI, the motions of the drill are used to rupture the sperm membrane, and the pipette then drills a miniscule hole in the zona. The pipette is placed through the hole and the sperm is injected through
the oocyte’s membrane into the oocyte. Many labs that perform ICSI—in both humans and horses—use the conventional method since piezo ICSI requires additional expertise and the equipment is more expensive. Additionally, piezo ICSI has traditionally used mercury in the pipette to act as a stabilizer and limit pipette movement. Since mercury has the potential to be toxic to embryos, many labs prefer conventional ICSI. However, when Hinrichs’ lab at Texas A&M started working on equine ICSI in 2001, they opted to use the piezo drill because of its greater success in fertilizing embryos. Hinrichs’ lab was the first to report efficient in vitro development of equine embryos after ICSI and remains one of the top laboratories in the world for equine embryo production. Since no critical research had ever been done to compare embryo production rates between conventional and piezo ICSI, Hinrichs always questioned whether the success of her lab using piezo was due to better lab conditions overall, or because piezo ICSI was more efficient in producing embryos than is conventional ICSI. Hinrichs got the chance to answer this question about two years ago when a scientist named Renato Salgado started working in her lab.
A ‘GARDEN’ OF EMBRYOS
Dr. Katrin Hinrichs with Ph.D. student, Dr. Sicilia Grady
64 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
“We were in this optimum situation,” Hinrichs said, “because Dr. Salgado had experience performing conventional ICSI on humans.” While standard in vitro fertilization methods (mixing of sperm and oocytes together in a Petri dish) work in humans, embryologists have found that fertilization rates are higher when sperm is injected into the oocyte via ICSI. Therefore, many assisted-reproduction clinics for humans now use ICSI, and this is typically done using the conventional method. Salgado’s expertise in conventional ICSI was combined with the skills of Dr. Joao Brom-de-Luna, another scientist in Hinrichs’ lab who specializes in piezo ICSI. Hinrichs designed a study in which the two scientists fertilized equine oocytes side-by-side in the lab, using the two ICSI methods. The development of the resulting embryos was then compared. To make the results applicable to human laboratories, Brom-de-Luna worked with a non-toxic compound instead of mercury in the piezo pipette. “We collected oocytes and matured them in the
Dr. Joao Brom-de-Luna performing piezo ICSI in Dr. Hinrichs’ laboratory.
same incubator,” Hinrichs explained. “Then we divided them into two groups—one group went to Renato for conventional ICSI, and one went to Joao for piezo ICSI. We cultured the oocytes in the same incubators afterwards and were surprised by the results.” Hinrichs and her team were expecting to find that one method produced more transferrable embryos than the other, meaning that the embryos were at a stage in development where they can be transferred to a recipient mare to form a potential pregnancy. Instead, Hinrichs and her team found that the piezo and conventional ICSI methods produced the same number of transferrable embryos. However, the embryos produced using the conventional method developed more slowly. “It’s like if you planted seeds in a garden,” Hinrichs explained. “The seeds may come up between seven and 10 days after you plant them, but some seeds will come up at day seven, some at day eight, and some at day nine or even
10. The embryos that develop earlier are healthier—they are more likely to make a pregnancy after you transfer them to a mare. The embryos produced using piezo ICSI grew faster and most developed to a transferrable stage by day seven. The embryos produced using conventional ICSI took eight or nine days.” This discovery led to even more questions. Hinrichs and her team hypothesized that the action of the piezo drill on the sperm membrane may have something to do with why the piezo ICSI method led to faster embryo development, possibly because the drill was rupturing the sperm’s acrosome. “The acrosome is essentially a bag of enzymes that the sperm carries at the tip of its head,” Hinrichs said. “During natural fertilization, these enzymes are released to help the sperm get through the zona, the outer ‘shell’ of the oocyte. The real oocyte is inside this shell, so in natural fertilization the sperm no longer has the acrosome SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 65
when it actually contacts the oocyte. However, when we do ICSI, we just pick up the sperm, acrosome and all, and inject it.” Hinrichs thought that the piezo ICSI method may have been rupturing the sperm acrosome before injection of the sperm into the oocyte. If this was true, then piezo ICSI mimicked the natural fertilization process more closely than did conventional ICSI, potentially allowing the piezo embryos to develop faster. To test her hypothesis, Hinrichs and her team arranged for another examination of embryo development. The team performed more rounds of side-by-side ICSI, but used special dyes to stain the injected oocytes to observe the sperm within the oocyte closely in the 18 hours after ICSI. “Immediately after ICSI, we were anticipating that we would see that the acrosome was gone in the piezo treatment and was present in the conventional treatment,” Hinrichs said. “However, that wasn’t true. Both piezo and conventional ICSI sperm still had their acrosomes when we looked at them immediately after injection into the oocyte. But at six hours after ICSI, we saw this huge difference in the piezo treatment. The acrosome had come off, the sperm’s head was starting to swell, and fertilization was about to take place. However, after six hours in the conventional ICSI treatment, the acrosome was still on the sperm, and the sperm head showed no sign of swelling.”
STUMBLING ON A DISCOVERY “If the development process of both types of embryos is so different, why is there no difference in embryo production rates?” Hinrichs questioned. Hinrichs investigated further and stumbled on a discovery. “We began to compare the quality of the transferrable embryos,” Hinrichs explained, “and the conventional embryos were significantly lower quality compared to the piezo embryos.” Hinrichs determined embryo quality based on the number of nuclei in the embryo and the percentage of nuclei that were developing normally. Abnormal nuclei appeared fragmented, indicating that some cells within the embryo were dying. “The conventional embryos had significantly lower nucleus numbers and higher rates of nuclear fragmentation,” Hinrichs explained. “In other words, 66 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
there were fewer cells in the conventional embryos overall and more of those cells were abnormal compared to piezo embryos.” This difference in quality is important because it could determine if the embryo leads to a successful pregnancy.
A NEW MODEL FOR ASSISTED REPRODUCTION IN HUMANS Horses are one of the few species in the world in which, like humans, conventional ICSI is repeatedly successful in producing embryos in the lab. Therefore, Hinrichs believes that horses are the closest models for humans when it comes to assisted reproduction, and her findings, then, are significant for both equine scientists and for laboratories working in human assisted reproduction techniques. “All of this is interesting because conventional ICSI is used in humans,” Hinrichs said. “However, we showed that in the horse, while conventional ICSI also works to produce embryos, the embryos produced using piezo ICSI develop more normally and are better quality.” Hinrichs suggests that piezo ICSI could be a better way to produce human embryos for human assisted reproduction. However, little work has been done on piezo ICSI in humans because it usually uses mercury in the pipette. “Of course, you’re not going to use mercury with a human embryo; it is potentially toxic,” Hinrichs explained. “But in our study, we used a non-toxic substitute for mercury, a carbon-based compound called fluorinert. Fluorinert is also safe to be used in humans.” Despite the success of her study using a compoundw that is safe to use on human embryos, Hinrichs recognizes that further research is needed before piezo ICSI can be regularly performed on human embryos. Additionally, Hinrichs hopes that future research will explore if the healthier embryos produced through piezo ICSI lead to more successful pregnancies. “Something as simple as using a different ICSI technique could help produce higher-quality embryos, which, in turn, could lead to more successful human pregnancies,” Hinrichs said. Hinrichs’ research was published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics—a scientific journal that focuses on assisted-reproduction technologies in humans and associated research in relevant animal models. Publishing her research in this human-based journal
Dr. Katrin Hinrichs and Post-doctoral student, Dr. Bart Leemans
further solidified the novelty of her study and the significance of the horse being used as a model for assisted reproduction in humans.
SAVING ENDANGERED SPECIES Hinrichs may have a strong passion for equine reproductive physiology, but she has goals to help other species reproduce, too. Over the years she has looked for ways to use her expertise to help endangered species, such as the northern and southern white rhino and the Grevy’s zebra. “My next dream is to use assisted reproduction to help widen the gene pool of endangered species in the United States,” Hinrichs said. But before pursuing this goal, she is doing more research to study basic factors that might play a role in the health of equine embryos, such as incubator temperature, atmosphere, and pH level. Although there
are now methods for performing equine ICSI that many laboratories follow, nobody in the field of equine assisted reproduction has critically tested the basic requirements for optimum development of the equine embryo. “We want to make sure that we’re producing embryos at the best rate possible and that they are as high quality as we can get,” Hinrichs said. “All of these little factors may affect the health of our embryos and, therefore, affect successful pregnancy rates.”
A PIONEER IN THE FIELD Hinrichs was just a little girl when she first discovered her love for horses. Now, she is one of the leading pioneers in equine assisted reproduction. For more than 30 successful years, she has not only improved assisted reproduction in horses, she has now brought humans and horses closer together than ever before. ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 67
RESEARCH Dr. Dana Gaddy and Blue
A family of research scientists work to bring peace and hope to families everywhere by dedicating their efforts to understanding a rare genetic disorder.
Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT & DR. MEGAN PALSA
Though Olive is 8 years old, she walks in a way that her
grandmother, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) professor Dana Gaddy, describes as toddler-like. “There is bowing in her legs that creates a sort of flare at the bottom ends of the long bones, and that flaring makes the joints work a little bit differently,” Gaddy said. “So, she waddles when she walks.” When Olive’s parents first realized something was wrong, they took her to specialists to determine the cause of these issues, to no avail. In the meantime, Olive’s issues persisted. The young girl was sitting at her grandparents’ house one day, eating a grape, when her tooth fell out, roots and all. “By the time she started having her secondary teeth come in, she was almost 8 years old, and she'd already lost all of her incisors, all of her canines, and two molars,” Gaddy said. “She was pretty snaggle-toothed for a long time.” 68 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
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One day, however, Gaddy and husband Larry Suva, both of whom were working at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) at the time, were at a conference in Colorado, when they attended a session on hypophosphatasia (HPP), a rare genetic disorder in which the enzyme alkaline phosphatase is mutated. HPP is characterized by the abnormal development of bones and teeth caused by defective mineralization in the body. “This dentist (Dr. Brian Foster, now a collaborator and co-author at Ohio State University) was giving a talk about the sequelae of the dental phenotype of HPP, and we said, ‘I bet you Olive has this disease,’” Gaddy said. “We had called a clinical geneticist colleague and requested a genetic analysis. We didn't know why she had bowed limbs and (at the time) she had just lost the first couple of teeth, but no one knew why.” When the geneticists sequenced her alkaline phosphatase gene, they found that not only were her levels extremely low, but they found not one, but two mutations in the same gene. With a name to a problem, Gaddy and Suva, both of whom are musculoskeletal researchers, began to investigate. They learned that HPP can be quite debilitating in humans, and it is also extremely rare. So, Gaddy and Suva decided to harness their knowledge and take matters into their own hands, starting a project that not only would bring them to the CVM, but also would have serious implications for a disease about which very little is known.
CREATING AN ‘OLIVE’ SHEEP A crucial step in finding a treatment or cure for any disorder, much less one that has been researched only intermittently, is creating an animal model to study disease progression. “Some data exist in humans, but it’s mainly crosssectional; they may have 20 people with one specific mutation whom they saw at 10 years old, but they don’t know what happened when the child was 4,” Suva said. “All they have are pictures at 10 and 15 showing what they look like.” Initial attempts to create a suitable animal model with mice proved unsuccessful, so Gaddy and Suva explored using sheep, a validated model for studying the human skeleton. Because that large-animal model didn’t exist, Suva and Gaddy turned to the CVM’s Drs. Charles Long and Mark 70 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
Westhusin, experts in genetic engineering in production animals, for a possible collaboration. After visiting Texas A&M, the two decided, instead, to join the CVM faculty— Suva, as department head of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP), and Gaddy, as professor of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS)—so they could create a model without the obstacles presented by working more than 400 miles away. “The problem with rare bone disease, as with many other diseases, is that researchers frequently recreate the disease in transgenic mice—they’re little animals, easy to replicate, easy to reproduce,” Gaddy said. “But not every disease model works in mice; the disease doesn’t copy what happens in the phenotype in humans. With this project, that was exactly the case. “However, researchers know a lot about sheep skeletons. When the first treatments for osteoporosis needed to be tested in large animals before they used it in humans (as required by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration), they used sheep,” she said. “So, we thought, ‘OK, maybe we should make a sheep model of hypophosphatasia,’ and that's what we set out to do.” Since starting the project in late 2016, they have seen early signs of success. Not only have they effectively replicated the disease in sheep by editing its genome using CRISPR technology and implanting the embryos into ewes, but their team has published a paper on their project in the Nature publishing journal Scientific Reports and recently received a two-year, $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health Dental Institute. “Our paper is the very first to make a point mutation in the sheep genome by gene editing,” she said. “(Researchers have accomplished) A functional gene deletion, but that’s not as specific as what we needed.” The project has been exciting for several reasons, including that knowing sheep have HPP from birth allows researchers to watch its progression in a way no one else has ever done. “We have built the first real model in which you can longitudinally study how the bone and muscle develops and then once we know why it’s weak, identify things we can do that might intervene,” Suva said. “We’ll see how the disease progresses—what happens when they’re 2 or 3 years old and how that is impacting them when they’re 6 or 7. “In order to make a drug for a bone-related disease, the pharmaceutical industry requires scientists to conduct
studies in rodents and a large animal before humans,” he said. “Now, we have a large-animal genetic model to serve as the platform for that step.” Not only that, their work represents the successful culmination of three years of activity that can now move ahead, something that wouldn’t have been possible had they not come to the CVM and teamed up with Long and Westhusin. “One of the reasons we wanted to come to Texas A&M was that we could do this project right here, because all the compliance issues have been solved here,” Gaddy said. “Texas A&M has a great track record of rigor in conforming to compliance regulations set by the USDA, FDA, and the NIH. So, you’re not inventing something from scratch; they have everything in place to do that.” Their next step, which has already begun, involves creating an “Olive Sheep,” a compound heterozygote that carries an exon 5 and an exon 10 mutation, the genetic mutations Olive carries. Gaddy says they should know by the middle of next year if they’ve been successful. “There are 356 known mutations in the alkaline phosphatase gene; most are reported as compound heterozygotes, because the mother and father don’t know they are carriers and are not symptomatic,” Gaddy said. Dr. Duane Kraemer
PAVING THE WAY FOR REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY: DUANE KRAEMER When Dana Gaddy returned to the CVM in 2015 as a professor, it wasn’t her first foray at Texas A&M. As a master’s student in the biology department from 1981-1985, Gaddy was enrolled in a reproductive endocrinology class in which her interactions with Duane Kraemer, now a senior professor in the CVM’s Department of Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP), made an indelible impression. “At that time, Dr. Kraemer’s lab was already involved in IVF and embryo transfers, doing inter-species transfers of embryos to try to save endangered species,” Gaddy said. “They were working with big cats at the time, trying to help some more endangered species to be less endangered by putting the embryos into domesticated recipients, which would not be risking the health of the mother during pregnancy of the endangered animals.” Today, Kraemer is recognized for his work in developing methods for assisted reproduction in more animal species than any other person in the world. Kraemer is also responsible for producing the first cloned cat, CC. The successful cloning of CC was big news in the scientific community and the world in general, garnering many headlines. In 2006, he was presented the prestigious International Embryo Transfer Society's Pioneer Award, which recognizes early contributors to the development of embryo transfer technology and the embryo transfer industry. Without Kraemer, who has built the foundation for reproductive sciences, Gaddy says her work today would not be possible. “The Reproductive Science Laboratory, under Dr. Kraemer's direction for 40 years, has been pioneering embryo transfer, cloning, and genetic engineering in production animals,” she said. “So, while it can be done all over the country and all over the world in mice, few places can do this in large animal species.” To contribute to the Reproductive Science Laboratory, visit http://tx.ag/CVMrslGive.
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Olive, Dr. Larry Suva, and Dr. Dana Gaddy
NO BONES ABOUT IT Since their research at the CVM began, a replacement enzyme has been developed that can serve as a cure for the disease. “There are extreme cases in which children whose mineralization of the rib cage is insufficient for them to have lung expansion would die without the injection of the enzyme that is targeted to bone,” Gaddy said. “This replaces that and also restores their muscle function, so now they can walk more, they can jump more, they can play T-ball. It’s an absolutely miraculous recovery for patients who can live normal, functional lives.” But the cure has its downside. “It’s quite expensive, and it’s not given to children who have a really mild form of the HPP,” Gaddy said. “Olive’s not really a candidate because she’s able to function fine. 72 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
Dr. Larry Suva and Olive
She does pretty well, but she has muscle weakness and premature tooth loss. “So, maybe you don’t actually need to inject $250,000 a year worth of drug to be able to fix the milder cases, but you don't really know what else you can do if you don’t understand the disease,” she said. “And we don’t really understand, functionally, the source of the muscle weakness, because we don’t know the function of alkaline phosphatase in muscle.” Therein lies the challenge ahead. “Now we have the chance to study over time as the sheep grow; when they get to be adults, we can see what happens,” Gaddy said. “We are also talking with folks at the Texas A&M dental school who are interested in helping figure out how to manage the dental issue; you’re going to have to explore whatever you need to do to treat
ADVANCING GENETIC ENGINEERING: MARK WESTHUSIN & CHARLES LONG
HPP in animals first.” Ultimately, the research team knows the progress they have made so far is one step closer to making a difference in the lives of children like Olive. “By using the sheep model, we’ve come much closer to the disease than we have been in the past by working in mouse models,” Gaddy said. “We’ve learned so much since we got here.” “When we started, we didn’t understand anything about teeth. By the time we get to the next part, we’ll know plenty about teeth,” Suva said. “We're going to fix it; we’re going to find a way.” ■
Also opening the doors to the gene editing work Dana Gaddy and her research team are doing with hypophosphatasia (HPP) is the work of collaborators Mark Westhusin and Charles Long. “Their integral role in our project was their team’s ability to develop a CRISPR-based gene targeting system and deliver those by microinjection into the sheep embryos. After microinjection, the CRISPR reagents induce the mutations (those expressed in Gaddy’s granddaughter) and the embryos are transferred to surrogates for gestation,” Gaddy said. “They know the genetics, they know the manipulation and have pioneered much of the embryo transfer methodology, and that's what's critical.” In addition to his work with Duane Kraemer in the successful cloning of more animal species than at any other institution in the world, Westhusin has focused his more recent work on advancing the knowledge of the role genes play in disease resistance and protein synthesis. The goals of this research include improving the quality of protein sources available in developing countries, increasing the safety of the food supply, and protecting populations of people from devastating insect-borne diseases. “The work at the Reproductive Sciences Laboratory (RSL) at Texas A&M has evolved from the pioneering work in embryo transfer to the latest in genome engineering, with each new technological innovation building on the successes of the previous accomplishments,” Gaddy said. “The utilization of the unique skills developed at the RSL allows investigators to explore novel areas of basic science research using better animal model systems, beyond mice,” she said. “These innovations will continue to impact the health and well-being of animals and humans, alike.”
Dr. Mark E. Westhusin Professor firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Charles R. Long Professor email@example.com
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WOULD HAVE IT Clinical pharmacologist Virginia Fajt was recognized for her ongoing contributions to livestock and the industry with the American Association of Bovine Practitioners Award of Excellence.
Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT
As a clinical pharmacologist for almost 20 years, Virginia Fajt has played an important role in helping
researchers, professional veterinary organizations, and the government understand the role of pharmaceutical use in the food animal industry. “What I do—whether it’s through research or education or service-related—is help people understand how we should use drugs appropriately, how we find out information about how to use drugs clinically in veterinary patients,” said Fajt, a clinical professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP). “Some people think about pharmacology and they think it’s about drugs and mechanisms—how they work in cells, what drugs do, and things like that—but a clinical pharmacologist’s role is to take that information and then to apply it. “So, it’s drug disposition: How much drug gets into an individual? How long does it last and how is it managed by the body? And then what does it do actually in an individual?” she said. “It’s not just in cells or in culture, but actually in patients, the clinical effects, clinical outcomes, things like that. It’s basically applied pharmacology, the applied study of drugs.” 74 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
Among her more than 50 authored or co-authored publications have been collaborative projects on antibiotic use, resistance, and stewardship, which has the potential to directly affect cattle practice and industries; a project to determine drug elimination times following the treatment of livestock with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which will be critical information for show livestock competitions; and a publication about the effect of heat on truck “boxes” used to store drugs and equipment, which had drug potency implications for practitioners who store drugs in warm weather. She also helps livestock producers specifically think about the implications of drug use in animals destined to become food. “Everything related to input on food animals directly impacts food safety, so thinking about the practice of veterinary medicine and how veterinarians are allowed to do their jobs is important,” she said. “We’re always thinking about what are our management strategies? What are the drugs we administer or the vaccines, and how do they impact the animals that then end up in the food chain?” Fajt applies her “disciplinary expertise” in leading both state and national committees and task forces that
RESEARCH Dr. Virginia Fajt
“What I do—whether it’s through research or education or servicerelated—is help people understand how we should use drugs appropriately, how we find out information about how to use drugs clinically in veterinary patients.” - DR. VIRGINIA FAJT
examine state and federal regulations to ensure they align with practice guidelines and prudent use, including both legal, professional practice, and ethical guidelines. Among those include working with the Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute to develop guidelines to assist practitioners in interpreting the results of susceptibility testing, presiding over the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine Association, and chairing key American Veterinary Medical Association committees, including the Committee on Antimicrobials, which developed and implemented a strategy to allow veterinary professionals to effectively share policy recommendations with legislators, regulators, the marketplace, and other stakeholders. In early 2018, Fajt attended the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and House of Delegates meeting to gain support and approval of the profession’s first “Definition of Antimicrobial Stewardship and Core Principles of Antimicrobial Stewardship in Veterinary Medicine,” which also has had a direct impact on how
antimicrobial drug resistance topics are taught in U.S. veterinary colleges. She also was awarded the 2018 American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) Award of Excellence in September, which is given annually to a member whose professional activities have a consistent and direct influence on daily activities of bovine veterinarians. “I think a part of any good professional organization is to pay attention to what’s happening at the legislative and regulatory level and monitor policies to ensure that they make sense, are scientifically valid, and if they fit with how practice actually works in this, whatever the setting is,” Fajt said. “Something that the general public doesn’t see or understand is how complicated that can be. “A lot of the things I do are really kind of small, but hopefully practical; they answer questions that can’t get answered in other ways,” she said. “I bring people together to make sure the conversations are addressing all of the correct issues.” ■
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ReproducingRESULTS A recent inductee into the University of Kentucky's Equine Research Hall of Fame, Dr. Dickson Varner has made a name for himself in the field of stallion fertility.
Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT AND DR. MEGAN PALSA
American Pharoah, Justified, Honor Code—even those
of us who know nothing about the sport of horseracing are familiar with those names. But Dickson Varner, a professor of equine theriogenology and the Pin Oak Stud Chair of Stallion Reproductive Studies in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has a more intimate knowledge of thoroughbreds of that caliber. A recent inductee to the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Equine Research Hall of Fame, Varner has more than 33 years of experience researching stallion fertility and has developed techniques that have profoundly improved the reproductive success in horses. Among his most recognized accomplishments, Varner identified a defect in the sperm’s acrosome, the “cap” on the sperm’s head that secretes enzymes required to penetrate the egg, which severely interferes with fertility of some stallions. He also helped develop the use of Computer-Assisted Sperm Analysis (CASA) for semen evaluation and a variety of ways to improve storage, transport, and insemination of stallion sperm. Because of his work, Varner is often called to examine world-class, million-dollar racehorses for insurance purposes. “When stallions retire from racing and they go to a farm to start breeding mares, there’s usually a sale involved. These stallions generally have an insurance policy to protect them against a sub-fertile year, so it’s a one-year congenital and fertility policy that ensures the stallion will get a 60 percent pregnancy rate for the 76 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
season,” Varner said. “I come in to look at the horses before the sale, before they get insurance, to see if they’re good candidates.” Breeders have found that with Varner’s signature as the veterinary inspector on an insurance policy, the stallions tend to perform well; one stallion achieved a 93 percent pregnancy rate in his first breeding season. “That’s an impressive year,” Varner said. Varner also shares his knowledge with insurance companies, presenting in 2017 to Lloyd’s of London, a company that provides specialist insurance services to businesses around the globe. “All of the underwriters came to a meeting and I talked to them about insurance exams and what they need to consider when they decide to underwrite a policy for a $75 million horse,” Varner said. In all, the research conducted by Varner and his colleagues in equine reproduction—in areas that include understanding mammalian sperm function, identifying stallion fertility problems, expanding in vitro methods for preserving stallion sperm in both cooled and frozen forms, developing assisted reproductive techniques, and assessing/managing subfertility in stallions—has an enormous impact on the equine industry. “No other university, no other program, has the impact on the stallions that we have,” Varner said. “We recently attended a meeting at Cambridge, and we had more reproduction papers at this international meeting than any other university worldwide, and it’s been like that for the last almost two decades.” ■
Dr. Dickson Varner
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“We are dedicated to producing excellent veterinarians; beyond the knowledge of veterinary medicine, they must develop solid communication skills and a passion for the profession.” - DR. MICHELLE COLEMAN Dr. Michelle Coleman and students
HORSE'S MOUTH When Dr. Michelle Coleman isn't teaching and collaborating with students, she is devoted to her research, which examines the effects of equine obesity and a condition that affects the larynx.
Story by BRILEY LAMBERT
As a young girl in Greenville, South Carolina, Dr. Michelle Coleman was always fascinated with the
beauty and grace of the horse. Her longtime desire to one day enter the medical profession was reinforced by an infatuation with the science behind equine medicine, which would spark a lifetime of intrigue and years of research in the field of veterinary medicine. After graduating from veterinary school at the University of Georgia and completing an internship in Lexington, Kentucky, Coleman came to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) for a residency in large animal internal medicine. She has now been with the Large Animal Hospital (LAH) in the CVM for 10 years. 78 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
While here, she also completed a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences. Her knowledge in equine medicine has been put to great use at the CVM. With the equine industry in Texas ranking among the largest in the country—consisting primarily of working horses and those owned as pets—Coleman and the rest of the equine team at the CVM stay busy year-round. In addition, Coleman has focused her research on laminitis, a condition affecting the foot of the horse. Her studies, mentored by Dr. Noah Cohen, have found that obesity is a risk factor for the development of laminitis; thus, she has focused her attention on better understanding the physiological processes associated with obesity to improve the mechanisms for preventing
Dr. Michelle Coleman (second from left), and Dr. Susan Eades (far right) discuss a case with students.
or managing obesity and, ultimately, reduce the burden of laminitis. “What we know about obesity in people is that it is not just about what we eat and how much we exercise; it’s certainly important, but it is not the whole picture,” she said. “Better understanding the mechanisms of obesity will improve our ability to manage or prevent it. Our primary interests are in the role of the gastrointestinal tract and gut microbiota in the development of obesity.” Another area of interest for Coleman is nasopharyngeal cicatrix, a devastating equine condition that causes scarring and often life-threatening constriction in the upper respiratory tract. Although epidemiological data are lacking, clinical experience indicates that this disease is highly prevalent in central and southeast Texas and is the most common disorder of the upper respiratory tract evaluated at the LAH, according to Coleman. Despite the awareness of this condition since the early 1970s and the high morbidity rates in Texas, the cause of this devastating condition remains unknown, making the research even more intriguing for Coleman. Outside of her research projects, Coleman enjoys
working alongside and collaborating with veterinary students at the CVM. “It is amazing to be around veterinary interns, residents, and students,” she said. “Their questions are engaging and stimulating.” Despite her focus on research, Coleman said teaching has become one of her favorite aspects of working here. “Having students around keeps us honest, and it keeps us fresh and enthusiastic about what we’re doing,” she said. When she isn’t breaking new ground in the world of equine medicine, Coleman enjoys spending time with her husband—Dr. Canaan Whitfield, an assistant professor of large animal surgery—as well as their two children and their family pet—a miniature pony. With her 3- and 6-year-old children and a veterinary school full of eager-to-learn students, Coleman said she looks forward to working with the CVM to shape the future of veterinary medicine. “We are dedicated to producing excellent veterinarians; beyond the knowledge of veterinary medicine, they must develop solid communication skills and a passion for the profession,” she said. ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 79
Dr. Kevin Washburn
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TEACHER‚ SCIENTIST‚ AND FOOD-ANIMAL VETERINARIAN — THE MANY SIDES OF KEVIN WASHBURN Story by VANDANA SURESH
Dr. Kevin Washburn, a professor in the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (VLCS), wears many hats. As a specialist in large animal internal medicine and surgery, he serves the needs of his ailing veterinary patients; as a faculty member, he mentors veterinary students and performs research. Washburn said the opportunity to practice veterinary medicine alongside teaching and research is precisely what drew him to Texas A&M University 13 years ago. But his path into veterinary medicine, particularly food-animal medicine, was far from serendipitous. Raised in a rural farming community in southern Oklahoma, he developed a close understanding of animal agriculture. “I was heavily involved with National Future Farmers of America Organization in high school,” he said. “I exhibited livestock all four years of high school.” Taking care of his family’s livestock involved frequent
trips to the local veterinary clinic. “The local veterinarian was my neighbor, and I spent quite a bit of time with him when he was working with my cattle,” Washburn said. Over time, this inside look into a rural veterinary practice solidified Washburn’s interest in pursuing a career in food-animal medicine. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Oklahoma State University, Washburn joined the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program there. Although the program did not have a foodanimal medicine track, he chose elective courses with an emphasis on food animals. After graduating, he went straight into food-animal private practice. Although Washburn greatly enjoyed his line of work, he developed a yearning to teach, and he quickly realized that a basic veterinary degree would not suffice for this purpose. “I knew that to teach I needed to go back to school SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 81
HOSPITAL Dr. Kevin Washburn and students
and become a specialist,” he said. “So, I left my private practice, went back to Oklahoma State University, and completed a residency in large animal internal medicine.” During his residency, Washburn became board certified in food-animal practice and large animal internal medicine to poise himself for a career in academia. Then, when a faculty position opened at the veterinary school at Texas A&M, Washburn applied and landed the job. Although taking the job meant moving out of his home state, he was excited by the prospect of a more fulfilling career involving teaching, research, and surgery.
TRAINING FUTURE FOOD-ANIMAL VETERINARIANS In 2005, when Washburn started teaching at Texas A&M, food-animal medicine was not a career path offered to veterinary students; three years ago, however, that changed when the CVM started the food-animal medicine track. 82 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
Washburn now trains students interested in careers in food-animal medicine—an area of veterinary medicine that he is deeply passionate about. “I really look forward to coming to work every day because of the interaction with students,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m definitely not the wise old owl, but because I worked in private practice for a while before coming back to academia, I can teach my students skills that are highly translatable to private practice, especially in food-animal type practices, because that’s my background.” When Washburn is asked about his students, his eyes well up with pride. “We have 16 veterinarians out there in the workforce who have gone through the food-animal track,” he said. “We’ve got at least 11 more who will graduate next May.” Washburn noted that food-animal clinicians trained in the CVM are a huge benefit for states like Texas where
there is a thriving livestock industry. “I think my job, as a clinical instructor, is to be able to do all that I can to produce veterinarians who can go and serve people in portions of the state, like the Texas Panhandle, that have a predominant livestock industry,” he said. “Our program provides a pipeline for students who want to be feedlot consultant veterinarians, dairy veterinarians, or swine veterinarians in large, productionbased facilities.”
TURNING THE SPOTLIGHT ON BOVINE RESEARCH Washburn also devotes time to research projects that impact the cattle industry, collaborating with partners in academia and industry to develop technology for detecting early signs of bovine respiratory disease (BRD), which is responsible for more than 45 percent of cattle deaths in feedlots. In one of those collaborative projects, Washburn is investigating whether consuming live yeast can prevent or reduce the severity of the BRD. Ranchers have been supplementing cattle feed with live yeast for years to boost digestion; however, the role of live yeast in mitigating BRD had not been evaluated. Washburn explained that if active yeast is indeed immunoprotective, adding it to cattle feed in feedlots could be hugely beneficial. “Since feedlots are where cattle efficiency is most important, that’s when the addition of yeast could potentially oil the immune machinery, so to speak,” Washburn said. More recently, nonclinical bovine research has also caught Washburn’s interest. He is currently working on a collaborative project related to fetal programming—a term used to describe engineering maternal and paternal genetics to produce genetically desirable traits in the offspring. In cattle, fetal programming can be used to select for traits such as rapid growth, high weaning weight, and lean muscle in calves. “It takes fewer generations to get what you want,” Washburn said, implying that fetal programming is faster and much more efficient than traditional crossbreeding methods. Washburn’s success as an instructor and researcher is reflected in the multiple awards he has won over the years in recognition of his contribution to food-animal medicine—his office is replete with award plaques,
medals, and some informal tokens of appreciation, such as a card from a former veterinary student that dons a colorful hand-drawn cow, with “Moo-chas gracias” written on it. More than the accolades, what really excites him is training future food-animal veterinarians, forging new collaborations, and pursuing novel research directions. “I’m very glad that I came to Texas A&M on a tirekicking mission and decided, oh my goodness, this is awesome,” he said. ■
“I think my job, as a clinical instructor, is to be able to do all that I can to produce veterinarians who can go and serve people in portions of the state, like the Texas Panhandle, that have a predominant livestock industry.” - DR. KEVIN WASHBURN
Dr. Kevin Washburn and students
Dr. Kevin Washburn and students
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Farrier Jason Maki has been the recipient of many on-the-job horse kicks, but a recent encounter stands out as more memorable than the restâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; because it may have saved his life.
Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT
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“There's always something new to learn, and there's always a new way to look at something–multiple perspectives, multiple modes of input–so it's multifactorial; you never run out of things to think about.” - JASON MAKI
Over the years, Jason Maki, the farrier at the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Large Animal Hospital (LAH), has sustained dozens of injuries. “The one that actually put me out of work the longest was when I tore my groin muscle, because I couldn’t work around it,” Maki said. “I’ve torn my hamstring, broken my finger, broken my wrist, broken my foot, and broken my ankle. I detached my tricep tendon. I’ve been kicked through a wall, twice, and had a donkey kick me in the head and knock me out cold.” Danger, he says, is part of the job. So, in September 2018 when Maki was kicked just under his right ribcage while shoeing a large Friesian-type horse, 86 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
he reacted as he normally would—by gasping, coughing, and trying to walk it off. “Some people saw that I looked pretty gray and noticed that I couldn’t breathe, so they took me to the occupational health doctor,” he said. “The doctor looked at me and said, ‘we’re sending you to the emergency room.’” When the emergency room doctor ordered a CAT scan, Maki was disappointed to realize that he may have broken a couple of ribs, and when the doctor ordered more tests, Maki began to worry that he may have ruptured something. “The doc came back in and said, ‘Well, as far as the trauma goes, you have a bad contusion, bruising, and
you’re going to be sore for a while, but you have a renal cell carcinoma on your right kidney…’ and I was like, ‘excuse me?’ That’s literally what I said,” Maki said. “I’m lying there and he repeated what he had said, like that would clarify things for me.” Still reeling, Maki began further testing. He learned that the cancer had a 97 percent survival rate and that, luckily, all that would be required was to remove his right kidney because the cancer hadn’t spread. “Long, but scary, story short, the cancer was all in the kidney, and now, my kidney’s gone,” he said. “Literally, when I was in there after my two-week appointment, the doctor read that (prognosis) to me, and he said, ‘So, basically, that means you’re healed.’”
SADDLING UP Farrier wasn’t the career field Maki thought he would pursue growing up the oldest of four “farm kids” in Ashtabula, a tiny, “very rural” town in Northeastern Ohio. While his family raised Arabian horses and Brittany Spaniels, and he grew up riding and showing horses, Maki went to college to double major in political science and history with the intention of going to law school. “By the time I had a constitutional law course, I realized I didn’t want anything to do with any of that, so I have a very liberal liberal-arts education,” he said. Maki had learned farrier skills as a way to pay for law school, so, after trying out several career options, including the military (which was ended after an injury) and working at a manufacturing plant, he decided to attend horseshoeing school. He operated his own farriery for more than 10 years when he found that his profits were dwindling and he “was literally working myself to death.” A friend emailed him a link for a job at Texas A&M looking for its first fulltime farrier, and the rest, as they say, is history.
CVM faculty, clinicians, students, and administrators. “The beautiful thing about veterinary medicine, at large, and in my particular small role in taking care of horses’ feet, is that there’s always work to be done,” Maki said. “There’s always something new to learn, and there’s always a new way to look at something—multiple perspectives, multiple modes of input—so it’s multifactorial; you never run out of things to think about.” In addition to learning, Maki also has the opportunity to teach. While there is no fourth-year rotation for farriers, Maki interacts with students through the cases that require his skills, as well as a two-hour third-year skills lab he teaches that requires students to work on foot models by applying and removing shoes. “We want to be proud of our didactic abilities and our knowledge. We want to share our knowledge, and we want to engage, and make people answer their own questions,” he said. “But I have found the less I say in a physical lab, the more they learn, because I’m simply showing students what I want them to do, why I want them to do it, and then let them go (practice). “Students will remember what they teach themselves, so I give them a parameter to work within and offer tips
A STABLE ENVIRONMENT Today, Maki is one of only a few full-time farriers at veterinary colleges across the United States (five other veterinary schools have farriers). After 10 years at Texas A&M, Maki still lights up when he talks about his job. He loves that each day brings something different, that he has been able to cultivate his own client base, and, most importantly, that he gets to be a part of the collaborative spirit that is embraced by the
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when they encounter issues they struggle with,” he said. “They teach themselves how to physically do something and then they remember.” Working with so many people from such diverse backgrounds on a variety of cases and being exposed to new and changing technology also have allowed him to become better at his job. “I am so lucky in the things that I’m exposed to, the knowledge that I have been able to gain, and the professionals I work with,” Maki said. “I mean, for any question I have, there are two to three world-renowned experts at arm’s length, so the educational opportunities are unending. You absolutely can’t beat it; you’re forced to work collaboratively, which makes the outcome better for everyone. “Socially, everyone is treated respectfully, and there’s a much more open exchange of ideas, up and down the food chain,” he said. “I love that about this place; I actually really enjoy that openness.”
LOOKING FOR LESSONS Throughout the process of learning about and being treated for his cancer, Maki devoted a lot of time to
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researching its cause and inwardly contemplating what he was supposed to derive from his experience. “I had a lot of time to think, and I kept trying to figure out what the lesson was,” Maki said. “Before my diagnosis, I was essentially having the conversation with myself that if I don’t feel a horse is absolutely trustworthy, I’m not going to work on it. “Well, if I hadn’t worked on that horse, like the other one that I had declined earlier that week because I didn’t feel that it would sedate well, I never would’ve found out (about the cancer),” he said. That lesson was compounded by what he concluded may have led to his cancer—exposure to chemicals now known to cause kidney cancer without wearing a respirator at his manufacturing job all those years ago. “It’s ironic—that bulldog mindset built the life that I have, but it almost took it away, as well; it would’ve killed me,” Maki said. “So, I’ve decided that has to be the lesson—I have to realize that as a person, and as an intellect, I have value beyond what I can do; that’s what I learned out of this.” He also learned the value of family—his LAH family, who offered him unending support during his recovery; his “brotherhood” of farriers who stepped in to help manage his caseload while he was out; and the family he goes home to every night—his wife, Heather, and daughters, Kelsey and Carly. His 19-year-old son, Ryan, is a criminology major at Cleveland State. “I wouldn’t trade those girls and Heather for the world. We have a wonderful life together, all of us. We always have fun, and we always challenge each other to see new things,” he said. “I couldn’t write a story to make my life any more perfect on that front. “And, then, when it came right down to it and things got really scary, my family was right there—to talk to, to think about, who always...,” he paused, mid-thought. “You could see the terror in Heather’s face, but she always responded rationally and reasonably, and if I was getting too far out in left field, she would bring me back in; she was the last face I saw before I went to sleep, and the first one I saw when I woke up. “I am the most blessed guy in the world,” Maki concluded. “I have an amazing place to work, I am blessed to be here, and I am blessed to have the people around me that I do. I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.” ■
Jason Maki with student
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DOSE OF CARE Story by DR. MEGAN PALSA
Dr. Joanne Hardy, a clinical associate professor of
veterinary surgery at the Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital (LAH), hails from Quebec, Canada. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the University of Montreal —the only French veterinary school in North America. After veterinary school, she completed a residency at The Ohio State University.
Dr. Joanne Hardy
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Hardy joined the faculty at Ohio State and obtained board certifications in veterinary surgery and in veterinary emergency and critical care. During this time, she was invited to Texas A&M University to speak at a conference and she really liked the environment—and the College Station area in general—and when a job opened up at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), she immediately applied for it and got the job. As a clinician, Hardy is responsible for the emergency and critical care service in the LAH, which consists of medical, surgical, and food animal faculty who deal with the daytime cases and share the after-hours emergency duty. “What we see is anything from a horse with a fever to major surgical candidates, such as abdominal surgery and colic, to neonatal emergency cases,” Hardy said. “We receive many food animal emergencies, which can include llamas, pigs, cattle, goats, and sheep. In fact, I'm bringing my own sheep today to be looked at by the food animal faculty, so it’s a heavy after-hours schedule, for sure. “The problem is people come home from work at 5 o’clock and then they find their animals sick, so that becomes an after-hour problem. We see everything; if it’s a concern for the owner, it’s a concern for us,” she said. Students participate in all of the work at the LAH, which is a great opportunity for them to see more emergent or urgent disease and illnesses, as well as to participate in the triaging of those cases. Whether the animal needs to have immediate surgery, or just
monitored, it’s a good opportunity for the students to learn in the hospital environment. The LAH also has a great intensive care service. The service is top-of-the-line and the technicians are some of the best in the country. There are at least two technicians, oftentimes three or four, in the hospital after hours at all times; they participate in receiving the emergencies and getting started with the diagnostics. The hospital staff can perform pretty much any diagnostics that need to be done, according to Hardy. “I've seen times when we’ve had horses with head injuries that needed to get an MRI imaging, or a CT, done—or whatever needs to be done, really—on a Sunday and we got it done,” she said. “So, at any time, I think our faculty and our technicians are absolutely fantastic to jump in and help out. It takes a village and we’ve got a great village, that’s for sure.” Hardy also fulfills the college mission of teaching. With the college’s recent implementation of a new curriculum, clinicians teach with a more hands-on approach. “The students, from day one, learn a lot of handson skills,” she said. “There are a lot more hands-on laboratories and sessions with live animals, but also with models. So, a lot of the techniques that we teach them can first be learned on models.” “The Professional Programs Office has come up with some really creative ways to teach the students different techniques,” she said. “They learn first on the model, so they can really get the hang of doing a procedure, and then when they get to the actual animal, they’re a lot more proficient.” With so many good things happening in the teaching world, Hardy said she thinks most faculty are much more involved from day one. “It used to be we were more centered on the third and fourth years; now we’re more involved throughout the curriculum,” she said. Hardy also participates in research projects. Currently, she is involved with Dr. Paul Lindahl from the Texas A&M College of Sciences’ Department of Chemistry. Lindahl has an interest in iron metabolism and so working collaboratively across colleges, Hardy and Lindahl are attempting to learn how iron is absorbed in the body. Even though iron is a really common nutrient, iron deficiencies result in world-wide problems—especially in
Dr. Joanne Hardy
“I remember going through vet school and having to learn everything by rote memory because you had to know–you couldn't look up things on your phone, right?” - DR. JOANNE HARDY
developing countries—there’s actually a lot to learn about how iron is used by the body, Hardy said. She is also collaborating with a few CVM faculty members by using remote monitoring of blood pressure and heart rate, and ECG, etc., in testing some different machineries to explore, for example, early detection of illness among cattle from a herd. Hardy also oversees the residents who are pursuing their specialty programs in surgery. “I think the way we learn is different today,” Hardy said. “I remember going through vet school and having to learn everything by rote memory because you had to know— you couldn’t look up things on your phone, right? “Now what students are having to learn is to look for good information, good resources, but then they don't have to memorize so much,” Hardy said. “Now, they can really think and assess and apply what they’re learning; it’s a different way of learning, it really is, but it’s a good way, I think.” ■ SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 91
By incorporating technology into his clinical, research, and teaching efforts, Dr. Cristobal Navas works to expand both future and current veterinariansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; understanding of issues related to equine internal medicine and education.
Story by DR. MEGAN PALSA
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HOSPITAL Dr. Cristobal Navas is a clinical assistant professor in
equine internal medicine and ultrasound at the Texas A&M University Large Animal Hospital (LAH) in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH).
TEXAS BOUND Navas attended veterinary school in Valencia, Spain, and worked in private practice for approximately three years before he came to the United States, where he completed an internship at Virginia Tech, an internal medicine residency at the University of Illinois, and a fellowship in cardiology and ultrasound at the University of Pennsylvania. After spending three years lecturing at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington State University, he moved to Switzerland. While working at the University of Bern, he saw a posting for a position at Texas A&M in internal medicine, with a focus on ultrasonography. Lucky for Texas A&M, three years ago, he accepted the position and transferred from Switzerland to Texas for what we like to say is his final stop.
Dr. Cristobal Navas and students
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Navas’ wife joined him on his journey back to the states. They now have two daughters, 2-year-old Isabel and newborn Clara.
NAVAS AT WORK Navas has a clinical appointment, which means that the bulk of his work is in the clinic, where he mainly sees horses with internal medicine problems, including those in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, heart, and neurological disorders. He also performs ultrasounds on horses and food animals. Even though that sounds like a lot of work, that’s not Navas’ only job—the other two parts are teaching and research. “I teach in areas that are related to my areas of expertise—large animal internal medicine but, more specifically, equine cardiology and ultrasound,” Navas said. “Because of time commitments, all of my research is clinically oriented, meaning I try to solve the problems that we come across in the clinic on a day-to-day basis.” While Navas has several ongoing research projects on various topics, because his main interest is cardiology and
Dr. Cristobal Navas
ultrasound, most are associated with those areas. For example, with one of A&M’s residents, Kari Bevevino, he is working on a project looking at the wall of the intestinal tract using very high frequency probes to see the different layers of the tract and to determine how that can help doctors be more precise when diagnosing gastrointestinal illnesses (GI). With student Michael Manriquez, Navas is trying different devices to record horses’ heart rhythms to better understand one of the serious problems within the equine industry—equine sudden death during exercise. “We need better and more user-friendly devices to perform large-scale studies that can solve this problem, which affects not only horses’ health but also riders’ safety and the public perception of welfare during equestrian sports,” Navas said. Lately, Navas also has been working on other research projects, some of which are not necessarily traditional topics for an internist, that focus on scholarship, teaching and learning, and telehealth.
RESEARCH AND TEACHING In one of those, Navas and other CVM faculty members have been working to collect empirical evidence for
teaching techniques being incorporated into the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. “Traditionally, as educators, we have said, ‘We are experts in our fields; therefore, we should be able to teach people,’” Navas said. “This teaching based on common sense seems to give good results but is not based on evidence. We’re examining if we can make better decisions by finding this evidence.” The teaching team—led by Dr. Kristen Chaney, a clinical assistant professor in the CVM, and Navas— designed a study to prove their hypothesis that interactive digital materials are more effective than traditional textbook learning. They found that students, indeed, seem to get better ultrasound images after doing interactive activities versus reading textbooks. The experimental part of that study was completed early in 2018. The data was analyzed by the team, which, in addition to Chaney and Navas, included Drs. Lindsey Gilmore, a radiologist, and Ashley Watts, an equine surgeon. With the data in hand, they have now designed a similar project that will compare similar interactive materials to a traditional classroom lecture. Finally, Navas and his team have two projects using SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 95
Dr. Cristobal Navas
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telemedicine. They are working with three Texas practices, in Austin, Lamesa, and Waller. For the project, they connected each practice’s ultrasound machines to the internet. “We can see the screen of their ultrasound machine, the horse, and their hand using the webcam in their computer and Google glasses,” he said. “It’s not the same as being in the same room with the horse and the owner, which I believe is the best scenario, but this real-time collaboration can get close. “We are learning that, first, the technology is feasible—it doesn’t matter if the horse is in Houston, in Austin, or in Lamesa; as long as they have a good internet connection, we can collaborate remotely,” he said. “Second, it can help on-site veterinarians manage cases. Sometimes the information can help the animal; in others, it just makes the owners happy to know that there is a second set of eyes looking at their horse. And, third, veterinarians tell us that they often learn new or different techniques.” Navas emphasized that while all of the veterinarians they work with are extremely good at their jobs, through
telemedicine, they have access to expertise of clinicians that have dedicated their careers to specific fields. “One of the privileges of my job at A&M, and the strength of the VMTH, is that if I am dealing with a complex case, I can walk down the hallway and discuss it with world experts in many different fields,” he said. “Telemedicine can make this accessible to veterinarians worldwide. This may be part of the solution to the problem of limited access to veterinary or specialty care in remote areas of the state or the world.” Navas loves teaching internal medicine courses to all levels of veterinary students, and especially courses that are associated with cardiology and ultrasound. He said that one thing that is good for a teaching hospital like the VMTH is that “many of the courses that we teach, we teach between different specialists.” “In other words, we are a collaborative group of people from different areas and departments who are working together and lecturing with one another,” Navas said. “Whether it’s internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, radiology, etc., we’re working as one to teach and learn together.” ■
Dr. Cristobal Navas and Dr. Lauren Richardson
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DONORS Dr. Patirck "Doc" Breen, Cathy Breen, and daughter
“When people are there for you on any level–ours happens to be on a huge level–you strive in some way monetarily or physically to give back.” - CATHY BREEN
DEDICATEDto Giving The conference room in the CVM’s VIDI Building that was designated in honor of Cathy and Patrick Breen carries forward a family tradition of philanthropy and the hope that those who utilize the room will one day also follow their lead.
Story by MEGAN MYERS
Dr. Patrick “Doc” Breen and his wife Cathy have de-
voted their lives to giving back to their communities. Now retired after having worked as a renowned veterinarian for 27 years, Dr. Breen helps raise money for area nonprofit organizations through auction events, and both husband and wife have given their money and time in various ways, including to scholarships for Texas A&M University students. In October, the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) dedicated a room in the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) to the Breens as part of a naming opportunity. Adorning a wall in the Cathy and Patrick Breen, DVM ’79 Conference Room, located in VIDI Building Room 120, is a plaque that expresses their philosophy on why they give. Dr. and Mrs. Breen grew up near Freeport, Texas. They attended elementary, middle, and high school 98 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
together and began dating during their time at Brazosport High. “We were high school sweethearts, and then we married while we were in college,” Mrs. Breen said. After high school, Mrs. Breen went to Sam Houston State to earn a music degree, while Dr. Breen attended Texas A&M for both his bachelor’s and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees. “We lived halfway between the two universities, in Iola. So in the mornings, I would go my 25 miles to Huntsville and he’d go his 25 miles to College Station,” Mrs. Breen said. “I didn’t really like to be there by myself, so when he had class or duty I enjoyed the opportunity to be able to study in the Green Room (at the CVM).” After completing his DVM degree, Dr. Breen opened the Animal Hospital of Georgetown, where he saw small animals for both routine and surgical services.
Dr. Eleanor M. Green with Dr. and Mrs. Breen
“He was the veterinarian for the Austin Police Department drug and bomb dogs and the University of Texas bomb and drug dogs,” Mrs. Breen bragged for her husband, a humble man who saw his job as “coming to work early, working hard all day, and going home late.” He even traveled to Alaska to provide veterinary services for the dogs competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. During this time, Mrs. Breen started a teaching career and sang for churches and weddings. “I taught private school in different capacities for 10 years and public school music for 11 years,” Mrs. Breen said. “I ‘temporarily’ left teaching to help with computer technology at the clinic and ended up staying at the practice until my retirement.” Now “mostly retired,” the couple still manages to keep busy.
After exploring different retirement paths that would allow him to give back, Dr. Breen went to auctioneer school to become a benefit auction specialist. He uses his benefit auction specialty at galas and fundraising that help non profits, and other organizations, to raise money for causes that are near and dear to their purposes. “People can follow more than one dream and still be very successful,” Mrs. Breen said of her husband’s work experience.
PAYING IT FORWARD One of the philosophies that has dictated the Breens’ generosity is to repay those who have given to them. Mrs. Breen’s father, Bill Mayse, graduated from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1950, and Dr. Mayse saved for his children’s college education. Dr. Breen on the other hand worked his way through SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 99
school receiving scholarships to attend college. Thankful for his scholarship assistance they decided they were going to give back to other students. After graduation, Dr. Breen met with the Class of ’34, which had awarded him their first Opportunity Awards Scholarship. “I promised them that I would continue that scholarship work by being not only an advocate, but a donor,” Dr. Breen said. Among their giving, the Breens have supported the Parsons Mounted Cavalry, Texas A&M’s horse combat unit, as well as a study room for students at the CVM. “At one of the meetings of the Development Council, Dean (Eleanor) Green talked about the initiative to get what is now VENI, VIDI, and VICI built,” Dr. Breen said. “There was also a need for funds for renovating the Small Animal Hospital, and so at that meeting we decided that we would give a gift. “This is a result of wanting to make sure that VENI, VIDI, and VICI give veterinary students the very best opportunity to excel by providing them with a great world-class learning environment,” he said. Dr. Breen currently serves on a committee that raises money for scholarships for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. 100 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
“Every entity that helped him in his dreams, we have rallied around their causes and given back to them,” Mrs. Breen said. “Because he is probably not going to brag on himself, he also started an A&M scholarship through our Williamson County A&M Club.” This scholarship, founded in 1992, was created with the hopes of raising $500 through an annual fish fry for Texas A&M students from Williamson County. “We carried our little fish fryer up to the park, we ran an ad in the paper that we were raising $500, and we just prayed that somebody would show up and eat fish, and eat beans, and coleslaw, and cupcakes,” Mrs. Breen said. That first event raised its $500 and since then, has been increasing in both funds and fish, this past year raising $40,000. “Not only did he give back to every entity that helped him, but we also together pledged to create our own entity to help the university, so we’re very proud of that part of our lives,” Mrs. Breen said.
THE BREEN OFFSPRING Family has always been incredibly important to the Breens. Dr. Breen was very close with his father-in-law, Dr. Mayse, who worked as a veterinarian most of his life
before passing away in 2014. “We had great role models, our dads were both hard workers. My dad was the only veterinarian in Freeport for 50 years, and Pat’s dad worked for the prison system and our dads had incredible work ethics,” she continued. “Both were very proud of our scholarships that we helped raise later in life because they both knew how important it was for Patrick to have those scholarships.” Dr. and Mrs. Breen have three daughters, Laura, Leighann, and Elizabeth, all of whom inherited their parents’ charitable nature. Laura, an A&M communications graduate, works with her husband at their concrete placement company and has two daughters. Leighann, who works with her husband at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital, recently adopted a son from Bulgaria. Elizabeth, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from A&M, lives in College Station. Elizabeth is working for Texas Concrete Placement while pursuing her career. She hopes to return to the university in some capacity. “We all get together real often,” Mrs. Breen said. “We’re a very close family.” Their middle daughter Leighann, who is a boardcertified child life specialist, endured many spinal cord surgeries as a child that required a lot of therapy afterward. As part of her recovery, Leighann used hippotherapy at ROCK, the Ride On Center for Kids in Georgetown, Texas. Hippotherapy, or equine-assisted therapy, is often used by children and adults for physical, occupational,
and speech therapy. The riders are able to learn balance and coordination skills, as well as form emotional connections with their instructors and horses. Later, Dr. Breen helped connect ROCK to Texas A&M University, allowing for the creation of the CVM’s Courtney Cares Program, which is used to teach therapeutic horsemanship to Aggies; it receives staff and knowledge from ROCK, as well as horses and horseback training from Parsons Mounted Cavalry. Dr. Breen is an “in the dirt” volunteer horse handler and side walker at ROCK, as well as serves on the board of directors as vice president.. “You don’t always give back because of money, but you give back because of situations,” Mrs. Breen said of their support of Courtney Cares, ROCK, and Parsons Mounted Cavalry. “When people are there for you on any level— ours happens to be on a huge level—you strive in some way monetarily or physically to give back. They helped our daughter be successful and follow her dreams.” Texas A&M has recently started its first equine-assisted therapy course and Dr. Breen is often a featured guest speaker in the class. The couple now lives at Tres Palomas, their ranch near Georgetown where they raise Angus Cross beef cattle. They have been married for 40 years. “I realized that we’ve done a lot to help others, too; it’s actually a great feeling,” Mrs. Breen said. “It’s very important that they should feel that inner satisfaction that they gave, no matter the amount.” ■
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Student, Wyatt Branum and his father Jay Branum, and Dr. Nancy Krenek
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OF HORSES Texas A&M's Equine Therapy Program is changing the lives of veterans and people with disabilities.
Story by JEANNIE RALSTON, SPIRIT MAGAZINE, TEXAS A&M FOUNDATION
The Courtney Cares program makes all the difference for 9-year-old Wyatt Branum (pictured to the left), who was born with Down Syndrome. In four years of riding, he's made tremendous progress mentally and physically. While never reluctant to ride, he can now mount and dismount his horse Straw Flying Down, who happens to be a gift from Lyle Lovett ’79 to the Parsons Mounted Cavalry, with little assistance. He trots on the horse, centers himself when off balance in the saddle and listens with 100 percent attention to his instructors.
THE COURTNEY OF COURTNEY CARES Courtney Grimshaw ’85 loved horses. Growing up outside of Colorado Springs, she got her first horse in high school. When she was attending Texas A&M, she had an experience that sparked a dream for her: She helped a friend’s son, who had a debilitating disease, learn to ride. “The child’s mother said it was the first time he did anything other kids could do,” said Dee Grimshaw, Courtney’s mother. “It was so rewarding for her.” Seeing the change in the boy planted Courtney’s dream of someday having a horse camp for kids. “She thought a horse could cure everything,” Dee continued. “Really that was the bottom line.” But the idea of a camp was sidelined as Courtney, who
was an animal science major at Texas A&M and earned an MBA in accounting from The University of Texas, built an impressive career in international finance—much of it spent in Kazakhstan as the tax partner for the global region of PricewaterhouseCoopers. When she wasn’t negotiating business opportunities for the developing country, Courtney rode dressage horses, which she bought from a breeder in Poland. In 2010, after 12 years in Kazakhstan, she was preparing to return to Texas to live. She built a home on acreage near the small town of Thorndale—between Austin and College Station—and started erecting a state-of-the-art horse barn, which would have been ideal for that children’s horseback riding camp she’d planned. SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 103
“From the word ‘go’ all the pieces came together in a way that continues to surprise and delight us, especially since the program supports the values of Texas A&M—research, education, and service.” - JIM GRIMSHAW
But, then, just months before leaving Kazakhstan, Courtney passed away unexpectedly at age 46, leaving her family and friends devastated. “We felt a huge hole in our lives,” Dee said. “We had to do something for her, something to help people. That’s what she would do.” Collectively, the Grimshaw family sold her property in Thorndale and used the funds to establish an equine therapy program at Texas A&M. “We connected the dots and decided this would be an ideal way to honor her,” said Jim Grimshaw, Courtney’s younger brother. “This is our way of perpetuating her spirit and making something good come out of our terrible loss.” Because Courtney was such a fervent Aggie, the family reached out to The Texas A&M University System. “From the word ‘go’ all the pieces came together in a way that continues to surprise and delight us, especially since the program supports the values of Texas A&M— research, education, and service,” Jim said.“It seems like Courtney was guiding the process. Serendipity is the word that comes to mind when we talk about it. Things just seemed meant to be.”
THE PROGRAM Launched in 2012 with $1.2 million from the sale of Courtney’s property, Courtney Cares was designed to do more than help local children, adults, and veterans in need of services. It was designed as a living, breathing, educational laboratory and classroom where students interested in volunteering could learn about the benefits and needs of the Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy industry. Courtney Cares is operated through a strategic partnership with the Corps of Cadets’ Parsons Mounted Cavalry and Dr. Nancy Krenek’s therapy center, Ride On Center for Kids (ROCK), which provides professional instructors, licensed therapists, and more than 20 years of experience. 104 | CVM TODAY // SPRING 2019
Wyatt Branum and his father Jay Branum
When Krenek was approached by the System in 2012 to head up this project, she knew that Texas A&M could be the catalyst for promoting excellence in this industry because of its high standards of service, education, and research. Today, the program helps children, adults, and veterans experience the life-changing therapy of horses. Currently, 15 to 20 of the Cavalry’s 66 horses are part of the program, and each horse is vetted by the standards of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. “Our horses work well because they’re trained to trust their riders and ground handlers to keep them safe,” said Bob Byrns ’74, the Cavalry site manager. “Once horses have accepted the leadership relationship, they will do almost anything to please their leader.” Courtney Cares supports the Cavalry’s budget by helping to pay for horse maintenance, renting Freeman Arena, and buying equipment such as saddles, helmets, and horse trailers. Texas A&M students—often from the health sciences, education, and animal science fields— serve as volunteer side walkers and horse handlers during Courtney Cares sessions.
Two types of sessions are offered at no charge for a couple hundred participants. The first is for children and adults with challenges that are either physical or emotional. The second is for veterans who are seeking to learn leadership through horsemanship as they adjust to their post-military life, often with physical injury or PTSD from their service. “The movement of the horse provides a deep-pressure stimulus with each step,” explained Krenek. “The rider can receive 160 to 200 biofeedback impulses per minute in the neuromuscular system, the brain, the nerves and the muscles. These impulses provide a calming effect on the nervous system that helps participants respond in a more proactive way to life. The cause-and-effect relationship with the horse also allows self-discovery and opportunities for leadership that aid in teaching horsemanship, appropriate behavior, and social skills.” Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy is a growing field because of many studies that have demonstrated the ways horses help people improve physically and Courtney's brother, Jim Grimshaw (right), contacted The Texas A&M University System about the possibility of establishing an equine therapy program in her honor. The program began in the fall of 2012, funded by a generous donation from Jim and his parents, Dee and his late father, Bo (center).
emotionally. “There are multifaceted opportunities for improvement,” said Dr. Jim Heird, executive director of the Equine Initiative at Texas A&M, a joint program between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “We know that the movement of the horse closely duplicates the movement of human walking. People can improve their core muscles and walking by riding a horse.” As for emotional benefits, Dr. Priscilla Lightsey ’80, a physical therapist with Courtney Cares who is also a hippotherapy clinical specialist, explained one reason horses have such an impact. “Participants have to communicate with the horse,” she said. “They have ownership and control of something 1,200 pounds. That’s powerful.” “Horses are always looking for a leader,” added Heird. This, he noted, helps children and those with disabilities gain confidence as they guide the animals. For veterans, taking care of a horse can make them feel whole. “Veterans do the same tasks the cadets do for the horses, but at a slower pace,” Byrns said. “They have to modify their behavior to work with horses; they have to be calm and gentle. It really helps them handle their personal relationships with their kids and spouses better.” A research study that included the Courtney Cares program documented a 74 percent decrease in PTSD symptoms and an 86.8 percent improvement in veterans’ overall mental health. The fact that Courtney Cares would benefit military veterans made the Grimshaw family even more comfortable with the goals of the program. Courtney’s father, the late James A. “Bo” Grimshaw, Ph.D., was a retired Texas A&M Regents Professor for Life and Texas A&M Commerce Professor Emeritus, as well as a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. “It is powerful to see the list of outcomes for participants in the program, and that means a great deal to our family,” Bo said before he passed away in April 2018. “Courtney continues to have a positive effect on so many people. That is the legacy our family wants to perpetuate.” ■
This is a condensed version of The Magic of Horses. The original version was published in the Texas A&M Foundation’s Spirit magazine. You can read the full story at https://www.txamfoundation.com/Summer-2018/ Cover-Feature.aspx. SPRING 2019 \\ CVM TODAY | 105
GETTING THE JOB DONE FOR TEXAS Texas A&M University has a premier veterinary medical college that is ranked #1 in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), #4 in the nation, and #10 in the world. More importantly, the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) remains dedicated to “Serving Every Texan Every Day.” The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC)—a CVM partnership with West Texas A&M University (WT), Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), Tarleton State University, and Texas A&M University-Kingsville, with the expertise, leadership, and resources to meet the demand for veterinarians throughout our state—is serving rural and urban areas, protecting our food supply, doing research that matters, providing cost-effective educational and clinical services, and supporting a strong Texas economy.
The 2017 and 2018 Food Animal Track DVM graduates are hitting the field, specifically trained for beef cattle and food production medicine!
Recruiting more DVM students from Underrepresented Minorities (URM) and Rural Communities •
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10 new DVM students are in the CVM’s entering classes of 2021 and 2022 through the WT MOA.
3 new DVM students are in the CVM’s entering classes of 2021 and 2022 through the PVAMU MOA.
5 new DVM students are in the CVM’s entering classes of 2021 and 2022 through the Tarleton MOA.
5 new DVM students are in the CVM’s entering classes of 2021 and 2022 through the TAMU-Kingsville MOA.
16 new Food Animal Track DVM graduates from the CVM’s graduating classes of 2017 and 2018 are entering the market.
Texas A&M DVM students had the 2nd lowest mean debt load upon graduation of all colleges of veterinary medicine in the US for 2017. Class of 2017 Average DVM Student Educational Debt Upon Graduation
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